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Ottawa's Kyoto plan: Another billion-dollar boondoggle

By Walter Robinson
web posted August 18, 2003

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (C), Environment Minister David Anderson (L) and Industry Minister Allan Rock announce the details of a $1 billion investment towards the implementation of the 'Climate Change Plan for Canada', in Ottawa on August 12
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (C), Environment Minister David Anderson (L) and Industry Minister Allan Rock announce the details of a $1 billion investment towards the implementation of the 'Climate Change Plan for Canada', in Ottawa on August 12

Last week the feds unveiled their long overdue Kyoto compliance strategy complete with an Ottawa news conference including the Prime Minister and a couple of Cabinet Ministers, a fancy-dancy website and a media briefing kit thick enough to deplete an old-growth forest. Oh and did we mention the entry level price tag is over a billion dollars?

Canada's obligations under the international Kyoto Protocol require us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 6 per cent below our 1990 levels or an estimated 240 megatonnes by 2010. And by the way, Ottawa still only has a plan to reduce emissions by 170 megatonnes, as for the remaining 70 megatonnes … don't worry, be happy. (Translation: Ottawa has no clue how to get there.)

Such is the nature of bad public policy that seems to pollute the atmosphere every time the Kyoto file is opened. To make matters worse, the feds will embark on a $1.25 billion bribe-Canadians-with-their-own-money-scheme to reduce 20 megatonnes (at best) of emissions over the next three years. That works out to $62 million/megatonne.

Ottawa will allocate $131.4 million in measures targeted at individuals including a $79.4 million home rebate scheme for energy efficiency upgrades, $45 million in an advertising campaign dubbed the One Tonne Challenge and another $5.5 million for the Marketing Efficient Vehicles initiative and $1.5 million of the Labelling of Off-Road Vehicles program (this includes lawn mowers!).

My how history repeats itself? In the 1970s, Ottawa ran the Canadian Home Insulation Program and sent out grant cheques if folks put insulation in their homes. It was a boondoggle with people living in apartments insulating their closets and pocketing taxpayer cash. The last time Ottawa ran a rebate/grant scheme, it was the GST home heating rebate with prisoners, out of country residents and dead people receiving cheques. Why should taxpayers pay for their neighbours to upgrade their homes? Isn't the payoff of lower fuel (gas, hydro, water, etc.) bills incentive enough?

The feds will spend $45 million in advertising which proves that this mostly for show – as opposed to results – and to try and convince Canadians that the government is serious about climate change. Serious about rewarding their friends with cushy advertising contracts is more like it. Think sponsorship fiascos and GroupAction. It is eerily similar to the hundreds of millions that were squandered by the State of California over two decades ago in advertising energy efficiency efforts. Independent studies after the fact confirmed the advertising had little to no effect on consumer behaviour.

Another $533 million will be spent –using existing technologies no less – on industry and business programs, aka: corporate welfare. This includes $100 million to the ethanol industry and another $100 million in programs geared to commercial real estate developers.

And to top it all off, $320 million gets dumped in a big government slush pool. This includes $160 million for a provincial and territorial Opportunities Envelope, $50 million (on top of $44 million already spent) for the ironically named Federal House in Order program and almost $31 million for aboriginal and northern communities. All for reducing a mere 20 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. At this rate, it will cost us a minimum of $15 billion (not accounting for inflation) to meet our Kyoto commitments.

Last November, the CTF released a study estimating Kyoto compliance costs would cost the average Canadian family $2,700 by the end of the decade. Critics lambasted this figure as fear mongering and unrealistic. Today this estimate looks exceedingly modest. As for our critics, they have conveniently slithered back under their "green" rocks.

Walter Robinson is the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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