One of the big issues to come in the Fall Federal Election will be fighting climate change and carbon pricing. With Conservative politicians vowing to do everything to not tackle this important issue for many Canadians, the whole issue of carbon pricing and how we do approach trying to reverse climate change will be a defining one. One thing that I think though that we can say so far is that Conservatives in general have done a better job at defining their messaging on this topic. I disagree with it and the policy that the Federal government is proposing will not have the effect that Conservatives say it will, progressive parties are still behind the eight-ball when it comes to the political communications battle around this topic.
Conservatives are trying to paint any pricing on carbon pollution as a simple cash grab that will do nothing to lower greenhouse gas emissions, even though British Columbia has had a carbon tax for a decade, have reduced GHG’s by over 10% while having one of the best economies in the country. But with an issue like this, a bad example can stick and do a lot of damage. That was in my mind when I heard about an announcement today from the Environment Minister, with funding from the governments Low Carbon Economy Challenge’s Champions fund. It wasn’t the idea of the funding that causes an issue, it was where it went:
As you might imagine, some of the reaction out there to Loblaws receiving this funding was not so great on a few levels. For starters, Loblaws is highly profitable and with how much money they made this year, do they really need the $12 million to do this, especially after they are already spending $36 million? While the project may be laudable, does Loblaws really need this government assistance? I would say not, and it will lead many other people to ask who else could have used that $12 million to lower their carbon footprint who probably couldn’t afford to otherwise. By giving this money to Loblaws, this just gives ammunition to Conservatives who want to paint this important initiative as a boondoggle waiting to happen.
Now if that was the end of the story with Loblaws, it would be bad enough. Yet that’s not the end of this story, because Loblaws has a history, a not too distant one which makes people further question why they should be receiving this money:
Yes folks, remember the bread price fixing case, where Loblaws was caught for being involved in a price fixing arrangement on the price of bread for over 14 years? That helped to make them more money, at the expense of everyday Canadians, including those who can barely afford food. It was an act of pure greed on the behalf of those who did it, and in the end their punishment wasn’t that large. And while I enjoyed what I was able to purchase with my $25 Loblaws gift card, this story leapt right to the top of my mind when I saw this announcement. As much as we may want to separate the two, really, how can you? That’s another strike against Loblaws for potentially getting this money. But folks, that’s not all:
Yep, just over a year ago there was this case involving the Canada Revenue Agency, Loblaws was accused of using off-shore tax havens to avoid paying more than $400 million in income taxes. And again, how are we supposed to ignore this? Folks, why after all of these cases should they get a dime from the Federal government climate funds, let alone $12 million? There surely must be more worthy companies who need the help more that doesn’t come with the same fresh warts that Loblaws has.
And this is how an announcement like this becomes one of those bad examples. Is this fund a good idea? Yes, absolutely. Should companies that need help to lower their GHG emissions be eligible to get it? Yes, I totally agree. Is this a good way to use funds raised by carbon pricing? Yes, yes, yes. But is that true with Loblaws? No, sorry but they just aren’t a good candidate in my mind for such funding. The fact is that this company can more than afford this $12 million and they don’t need this hand up. What’s worse is that there are other companies or organizations out there who really need the help who will more than likely go without now, so that Loblaws can get their piece of this pie.
This election will be a big fight about the future of our country in many ways, and a funding announcement like this has all the potential to put some serious sticks in the spokes of the governments bicycle. And all over $12 million to a major Canadian company that doesn’t need it. You have to ask what the government was thinking here, but here we are. Now we’ll see if this announcement is a one-off or if the governments climate funding includes more examples like this. For all of our sakes, I really hope there aren’t others because this issue is too important to let it get tripped up over this company, no matter how much I love their cookies.