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Monday Morning Commentary

Rick Swenson

Every once in a while a public policy issue comes along and seems to take on a life of its own. The policy issue I'm referring to is the proposed carbon tax. The problem with an initiative like this is the fact that most of us don't have the necessary knowledge base to make rational decisions and secondly, this is an issue that is open to political grand standing.

Various forms of carbon taxes have been the reality in several Canadian provinces for a number of years now. They were instituted in order to start addressing the effects of climate change and changing the way that our society uses various forms of energy. So it is a big area of public policy. Not everyone agrees with climate change in the first place and whether you come from a consuming province or a producing province also can affect your views on this issue. We have all witnessed the war of words between the Premier of Saskatchewan and the Federal Liberal government who has decided that all provinces will have some form of carbon tax by 2018.

My hat goes off to the APAS organization for sponsoring a conference in Saskatoon last week on this topic in conjunction with their semi-annual meeting. They brought in speakers from across Canada and put together a very in depth presentations by people who have studied all aspects of the carbon issue. The conference was very well attended with a wide spectrum of Saskatchewan's population attending. The APAS organization is to be commended for a first-class effort at helping us understand where we all fit in this very complex issue.

Because APAS, first and foremost, is an organization representing agricultural producers, there was a lot of emphasis on how the carbon tax issue will affect agriculture. Because agriculture is such a huge part of Saskatchewan's economy and lifestyle, it was great to get factual-based information when trying to get a handle on what the next few years will look like as a growing carbon tax is worked into our economy.

The conclusion I reached after two days and I think most others that attended reached is that our land base here in Saskatchewan is a positive benefit to controlling carbon in our atmosphere and countering the effects that it has on climate change. Our farm land, our ranch land and our natural eco-systems are huge when it comes to the sequestration of carbon. Our changing farm practices where zero tillage has become the norm rather than the exception is a huge benefit in comparison to past practices. Our rotational grazing systems and the preservation of native prairie are hugely important to the wellbeing of our planet.


I can't cover the whole topic in this morning's commentary because of the size of the file. It was obvious to me that there needs to be more work done by public opinion leaders and politicians to educate the public on this issue far more than what we have done so far and if we are going to make societal changes that will ultimately benefit us all, it must be done in a fair and equitable manner. We must also provide ways for Canadians to participate in this change that have more positive effects than simply a punitive tax measure where we have to trust the politicians to do the right thing with our hard-earned money.

Putting further economic burdens on our agricultural sector without including the opportunity for producers to also be rewarded for good husbandry of our land resource is simply short-sighted and counterproductive. We must have more meaningful discussions on carbon taxes than a twitter war between our Premier and Prime Minister and useless court battles between various levels of government. This will require statesmanship and vision from our political leaders if we are going to have equitable solutions.

Thank goodness organizations like APAS are trying to problem-solve this issue in a responsible manner because our politicians of all stripes are failing miserably - in my view.

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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons

 

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