Frank Touby: Veggies breathe CO2—should they pay the carbon tax?

By Frank Touby –

I’m trying to get my head around this global warming/climate change thing and the carbon tax that hapless professor Stéphane Dion was trying to flog in his quixotic tumble to political obsolescence that keeps Stephen Harper in power. And now my brief hero Barack Obama is touting the same or a similar scheme. I fear President O is on his way to becoming another David Miller-style disappointment—if he hasn’t arrived there already.

So naturally I took my concerns to my political analyst, Slovo, who pontificates from his bench in his shoemaker’s shop. When it comes to political interpretation, Slovo is matchless. He’s okay as a shoemaker, too.

“Tell me about this Cap-and-Trade thing,” I said.

“It’s simple,” replied Slovo, pounding on the sole of a black-and-white brogue. “You put a cap on something so no more can be produced without a licence. In this case, the something is mostly carbon dioxide, which plants breathe. In the U.S. they plan to give huge amounts of free carbon credit papers to the big corporations for starters.”

“I think I see,” I replied. “So if a company in Canada has to produce carbon dioxide to make its product, like by burning lots of coal or oil, it has to buy carbon credits from a U.S. company with excess credits in order to sell in the U.S.?”

“You got it.”

“And Canada might be pressured into making the same rule so our big corporations can have free carbon credits.

“You can count on it.”

“And then the rest of the world would have to do that, too?”

Slovo snickered: “Only the ‘rich’ countries. The poor countries can produce all the carbon dioxide they want. China, India, Mexico, everywhere there are poor people who work for peanuts.”

“Isn’t that so they can catch up economically with the West?” I asked.

“No. It’s so the big corporations can get cheap labour. Why else do you think Canada imports unskilled temporary workers instead of those with skills we really need?” Slovo replied. “It’s also good for the banks and Wall Street. They get another derivative scam to sell.”

“You mean like the mortgage derivatives?”


 “Well, they’re experienced in dealing with money, so that makes sense.”

“What money?” Slovo replied. “Carbon credits aren’t money. They’re just paper that’s dee-rived from the right to make carbon dioxide. They’re a licence backed by nothing but hot air.”

“So you’re saying the banks are behind this carbon credit thing?” I ask.

“Probably. It’s a gold mine for them. Just more money to print.”

“Won’t it keep the production of carbon dioxide down and help the planet?” I ask.

Again he snickers. “Of course it won’t. How could it? China and India aren’t going to pay carbon taxes. And they’re going to get all the business Canadian workers lose because Canadian bosses would have to buy carbon credits.”

I’m aghast. “You mean Canadian companies would lose business because they have to pay carbon taxes while Chinese and Indian companies don’t?”

“That’s right. All the cheap-labour countries are the ones that don’t have to pay for carbon derivatives. For the multi-national corporations that’s a banana…”

“Bonanza, you mean?”

“Yes, banana. They export Canadian jobs to other countries. So they eat the banana and we keep the peel. They get a big pile of carbon derivatives free at the start, which they can sell for a profit, then they ship out their jobs to poor countries so they don’t have to buy derivatives in Canada. It’s like NAFTA—the big corporations win and everybody else loses. And they’ve still got carbon credits to sell for a profit,” he said. “The bankers and guys like Al Gore, who are in the carbon-scare business, would all be making money selling carbon-credit paper. He’s chairman of Generation Investment Management, a big player in that.”

“What do you mean carbon-scare business?” I asked. “Isn’t it a scientific fact that greenhouse gases are causing global warming?”

“If you’re a scientist paid for by big corporations it is,” said Slovo.

“C’mon, now, Slovo! Aren’t the icebergs melting and the polar bears drowning? You’ve seen the pictures!”

“I’ve seen the ice caps on Mars melting,” he countered. “You think that’s from carbon dioxide in Hamilton?”

“I think you’re a global-warming denier,” I told him. “August is supposed to be very hot this year, so you’ll see. It might not even snow this winter.”

He sneered. “The ice caps are back on Mars.”

“We’ll see,” I replied. “But otherwise, since Canada’s manufacturing is going to third-world countries that don’t pay for carbon credits, keeping their products cheap for us, what’s the problem for us here?”

“Aside from unemployment and bankruptcies?”

“I don’t think we should worry about that,” I replied. “Canadians will just switch to jobs in other sectors that don’t produce carbon dioxide. We’re a resourceful people.”

“You plan to stay home and work?”


“You’d better. But you’ll have to work dirty and hungry…and naked. Because if you take a car or transit you’ll pay carbon tax,” said Slovo.

“If you use electricity, you’ll pay carbon tax. If you eat, you’ll pay carbon tax. If you wash or bathe, you’ll pay carbon tax. All of life is made up of carbon and all of life will pay carbon tax if they live in the ‘rich’ countries.”

“You make it sound like a total scam,” I accused.

He just missed smacking his thumb with his hammer. “When you die, you’ll pay carbon tax,” he continued. “Unless Canada becomes a third-world nation first.”

Now how could that happen? Sometimes Slovo goes over the top.