Tweetbusters: Debunking Doug Ford’s Carbon Tax Tweets

Kirsten Ehlers - 1B Biomedical
Posted on: February 6, 2019

For anyone out there who (like me) possibly inappropriately watch politics as their source of reality TV, you will be excited to hear that 2019 is cited to be the year of the carbon tax. This issue is set to be the hot topic of the upcoming election, and unfortunately ever-present on political twitter feeds.

Inspired by Trump’s incorrect tweets of rhetoric in the states. I thought, let’s take a Canadian perspective on twitter in politics.

On January 22nd, Doug Ford tweeted:

“Every decision we make is driven by our commitment to create and protect good jobs here in Ontario. That’s why we’re cutting red tape to reduce costs for our businesses, and fighting the job-killing carbon tax to ensure they remain competitive. #onpoli

One area of focus is the “job-killing carbon tax”. That line has been completely blown out of proportion, not only by Ford but by the NDP as well. Nick Rowe, an associate professor in economics at Carlton University, stated policy change, which includes a carbon tax, most likely doesn’t affect employment. Policies may affect wages and potentially unemployment in the open sector. However, policy changes often see an increase in employment in another sector. Even with this small job loss, the effect is negligible on the overall economy because 200 000 Ontarians lose or leave their jobs every month.  Additionally, BC has had a direct carbon pricing plan since 2008 and it created jobs.

Later that day, Doug Ford tweeted something even more outlandish:

“It’s hard to believe economists with theories that making everything more expensive is a good idea. The threat of a carbon tax recession is real. The cost of goods that are made, farmed + transported in Ontario will go up with a carbon tax. The price will be paid by Ontarians.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, the threat of the carbon tax recession is not real. Economists believe that the impact of the carbon tax is negligible on the economy. Economists and their theories have degrees and education. They study economics for a living. I think it’s fair to say they probably know more than Doug Ford about trends in the national economy. Yes, the carbon tax will shrink the economy by $3 billion. However, the director of economics at the Conference Board of Canada, Matthew Stewart said that $3 billion is 0.14% of the economy. Moreover, Dale Beugin, executive director at Ecofiscal explained that a loss of $3 billion is not negative growth but $3 billion less growth. The economy is still strong. There is still growth.  There is no real threat of a carbon tax recession. I can’t deny that Canadians will have to pay more. However, there are rebates. The average Ontarian will have to pay an extra $300 but will get a rebate of $244. This cost is significant to low-income households. However, maybe Doug Ford should be introducing welfare programs for low-income communities instead of rage-tweeting about the carbon tax.

What’s in common with these tweets? Hyperbole. Doug Ford is severely overestimating the damage of this carbon tax. The danger of this is that the carbon tax is really important to reduce carbon emissions. Climate change is a problem and Canadians have to do something. Either pay for it in a carbon tax now or for generations to come.

Now, it is important to note that the carbon tax will not solve the world’s climate problems. It won’t even allow Canada to meet its targets for Paris agreement. However, if every time Ottawa tries to do something about climate change, Doug Ford puts up a fight, it will cause a global climate disaster in the next five years. Now that’s a hyperbole. It sounds weird, right?

My advice to readers: read political tweets carefully, chances are there’s something that’s been a little exaggerated to make a point.

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