Strategy

The CEO Poll: Hot air

Canadian business leaders blast Dion’s carbon tax plan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has called the Liberals’ carbon-tax proposal “insane,” and the 101 business leaders recently polled by COMPAS Inc. were just as blunt and reactionary. One respondent said the plan was an “obscene shell game,” while another decried carbon taxes as just plain “stupid.”

Well over half of the respondents (63%) are opposed to the Green Shift, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s carbon-tax proposal. The reasons are varied. Most feel manufacturers will suffer under the plan because Canada would be prevented under the World Trade Agreement from taxing imports from countries with lax carbon-emissions policies.

A majority also cautioned against pouring money into cutting greenhouse gases since the co-operation of every country is needed to have a meaningful effect. As such, most of the CEOs say a carbon tax would have to be set so high in Canada that it would damage northern and rural communities, the elderly and exporters. “Canada is one of the smaller industrial nations, hence it is contributing less to global warming, and we have to compete with emerging nations who are among the worst contributors,” wrote one CEO. “Initiating yet another tax will have little or no effect on the overall problem, but will make us less competitive in world markets.”

The CEOs were divided on whether the cap-and-trade system proposed by the Conservative government is any more effective at lowering emissions than a carbon tax. “Selling carbon credits is just a joke. It repositions it somewhere else and does not solve the problem,” wrote one CEO.

There was widespread skepticism of the science behind climate change. Only 46% agree Canada must pay the necessary costs for reducing fossil-fuel use, down from56% last year, and about the same number think Canada should wait for more evidence before changing our way of life to cut emissions.

For one CEO, the fight against climate change is misguided. “The root cause of the problem is not excessive emissions of carbon gases, it is too many people on the planet.”