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Finance committee advises cap on carbon tax

Nov 16 2011

B.C. should clear its clogged court system, stabilize education funding and cap the carbon tax, according to an all-party group of provincial politicians.

The legislature's finance committee released 75 recommendations Tuesday for next year's provincial budget, while touching on some contentious issues like supporting a sustainable funding model for Community Living B.C.

Among the suggestions are a cap on the province's carbon tax rate in 2012. The tax, introduced in 2008, is an attempt reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but is most notable for bumping up the price of gasoline at the pumps.

B.C. is the only jurisdiction in North America with a carbon tax, and the finance committee says it should be capped in 2012, when the province's five years of scheduled increases is set to end.

"We heard that we're leading the world in this and we need to just take a bit of a pause and make sure that the rest of the world catches up with us," said Rob Howard, Liberal MLA and committee chairman.

The finance committee also recommended a halt to the cap and trade program of greenhouse gas credits, until B.C. has more jurisdictions to trade with.

Environment Minister Terry Lake bristled at the suggestions, saying "there's a misconception on the part of the public" that B.C. is too far ahead on carbon tax and cap and trade.

There are still "ongoing discussions" on the carbon tax but no decision on what to do after 2012, he said.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon also proposed capping the carbon tax during his leadership campaign earlier this year.

"The issue is nobody has chosen to follow us in that regard in North America and so that makes it difficult because we have to think about our competitive position," Falcon said Tuesday.

He said he'll consider the finance committee's report while preparing the budget.

The committee also suggested government review funding for the Attorney General's ministry to address backlogs and shortages in the justice system, review education funding for high-growth school districts, reinstate the Buy B.C. agriculture program, reduce the interest rate for government student loans and review an adequate level of legal aid services.

The recommendations aren't binding on government.

The politicians received more than 750 public submissions at 15 hearings across the province.

But the Opposition NDP said Tuesday it won't endorse the entire report because it only agreed with 80 per cent of the recommendations and was upset at the lack of consultation by the Liberals in writing the committee's final report.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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