Choice between two wrongs – Opinion

Popoff is an organic inspector and consultant based in Osoyoos, B.C.

Finally an issue has arisen which gives B.C. Liberal premier Gordon Campbell something fundamentally in common with federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion besides the names of their parties.

It’s the carbon tax.

Farmers in British Columbia face the prospect of voting against Dion’s federal carbon tax while holding their noses and voting for Campbell’s provincial carbon tax less than seven months later. Many are understandably perplexed.

It’s like being an abortion-rights advocate provincially and an opponent of abortion federally, or favouring free trade with the United States only to build trade barriers around your home province; as inconceivable as a vegan Greenpeacer running a feedlot.

Farmers in B.C. have for years supported Campbell’s sometimes conservative party because he promised to provide political shelter to anyone opposed to the folly of urban socialism under the NDP. Conservatives and centre-right liberals, farmers and urban free-enterprisers, all coexisted in the B.C. Liberal party for more than a decade.

Then along came the folly of Campbell’s carbon tax.

We’re paying in advance for a dream to stop global warming by reducing society’s reliance on fossil fuels to heat our homes, drive to work, put a crop in, take it off and basically run the economy.

Never mind that even if there was conclusive proof fossil fuels are harmful, farmers have no alternative.


Never mind that particulates cause pollution, not carbon dioxide, and they’ve been effectively eliminated from the exhaust of fossil-fuel burning engines.

Never mind that trees and crops need CO2 to survive and that climatic conditions in the last 20 years have been the most favourable for agriculture in the last 800 years.

Never mind that wind, solar and tidal power all offer less than 17 percent as much bang for the buck as fossil fuels.

The inescapable science that no politician will dare mention is there are 20,000 man-hours of energy in a single barrel of oil, the equivalent to 10 people doing manual labour all year long. Not bad for less than $150.

No, just forget all those bothersome facts.

Most notably, never mind that whatever one’s beliefs about manmade climate change, there is no proof that taxing something reduces its consumption.

Witness previous sin taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, gambling and, lest we forget, fossil fuels. Canadians already pay hefty tax on these “vices” and yet we use them as much or more than Americans, who pay very little sin tax. In fact, that’s precisely why our politicians tax them.

Let’s face it, a carbon tax isn’t really intended to reduce emissions. It nails you in the wallet every time you fill up on fuel, groceries, clothing or shelter. It’s like a parking meter installed in an area where parking is unavoidable.


The bald-faced intent is simply to generate revenue. In fact, carbon taxation would fail miserably if it actually succeeded in reducing emissions because then the revenue would dry up and the politicians would have to find another way to tax us. And then there goes the tax break you were promised.

Here is the worst part. Campbell and Dion both say they’ll use carbon tax revenue to subsidize the best plans to develop low or zero emission energy alternatives – like that electric tractor you’ve had your eye on.

What the heck makes politicians think they’re qualified to pick the best plans for anything? Government subsidies lead to boondoggles like ethanol, which offers no advantage over fossil fuels. I don’t hear any politicians admitting error on that one.

Years of grudging acceptance by farmers in B.C. has come to a head. The provincial party, with the Liberal name that promised to shelter rural voters along with former Social Crediters, Reformers and Conservatives, no longer guarantees a safe haven.

Campbell’s attempt to out-green the NDP by out-taxing every other province and state against which we compete will be the last straw for farmers already pushed to the limit.

A farmer who lives and dies by the price of the energy required to run a farm simply has no capacity to accept a carbon tax, even if it is solemnly promised, on Campbell’s and Dion’s grandmothers’ graves, to be “revenue neutral,” and is accompanied by last-minute “guarantees” of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of “reduction credits” for farmers, fishers and truckers.

If Liberals actually want to reduce CO2 emission through a tax, but then insulate big CO2 emitters from the economic impact of a carbon tax, anyone can see the very purpose of the whole endeavor is, ipso facto, thereby defeated. So why bother in the first place?

Desperate Liberals like Campbell and Dion are now completely urbanized and have forgotten what it takes to feed the nation. Either that or they never understood farming in the first place.


About the author

Mischa Popoff — Mischa Popoff is a former organic farmer and Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector. He’s the author of Is it Organic?, which can be previewed at

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