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The carbon tax has ‘outlived its political welcome’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

To start the new year, Hub readers discussed many topics over the past week, including a secret report documented by a British Ambassador and what it reveals about Canada, the country’s fiscal outlook, the Canadian legacy media and the Online News Act, Saskatchewan’s cancelling of the carbon tax, and the state of the country’s stagnant economy and finances.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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‘Very Sensitive’ citizens, ‘Bizarre’ politicians: What a British ambassador’s secret report on Canada reveals 40 years later

Monday, January 8, 2024

“Maybe it’s just Canadians don’t speak or act on their truth. They always seem to hold back as if being polite. But I think it’s based on fear. Fear of being too forward, rude, or maybe wrong, we have to quit being followers and act on our own instincts to move forward and make a difference in this country.”

Lynne

“Our young people have little hope of owning their own house, people struggle to buy groceries and gas, and taxes on everything are going up due to an ineffectual and punishing carbon tax. I fear that [Howard] Anglin’s bleak prediction for 2024 will indeed play out. But we must not lose hope.”

BobSt

Don’t buy the government’s rosy projections—Canada’s fiscal outlook is not a pretty picture

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

“As we approach the 30th anniversary of a key course correction that shifted us away from the fiscal wall we were careening towards, Canadians will soon find themselves facing the same consequences of borrowing money we don’t have to spend on federal programs that are the domain of the provinces.”

RJKWells

The best thing Ottawa can do to help the media? Stop trying to help us

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

“When intervening in a market, which should only happen when the significant public good is at risk, governments are on safer (effective) ground when they try to create conditions with clear guidelines for broad and desirable (by society) outcomes, leaving the solutions to the players in that ‘space.’

Governments get into trouble when they try to favour a specific solution, for lots of reasons, most of which are not good. Too often, powerful players use their influence to have the government ‘go the solution route’ that, surprise surprise, favours them. This is what happened here.

A healthy journalism ecosystem is certainly a public good. However, attempting to force the shape of the ecosystem, particularly in a period of rapid technological change, was folly from the start.”

— Paul Attics

Saskatchewan cancelled the carbon tax. Here’s how the other provinces could do the same

Thursday, January 11, 2024

“I sincerely hope that others now follow Saskatchewan’s lead on this. Less tax means people will spend more; hence, more taxes will be collected through the GST and PST, which means that the government will have an increase in general revenue and this will allow funding of green programs to continue.”

Mark

“While the carbon tax is effective, it has outlived its political welcome. In this sense, it’s time to start looking for another economic instrument designed to reduce emissions. I say this for two reasons.

First, climate change is an existential threat, and, in the name of intergenerational equity, action must be taken. The inefficacy objective—i.e., the common line that ‘Canada barely contributes to global emissions’—is insufficient.

Second, although technology will be a significant part of solving our current conundrum (e.g., carbon capture and storage projects), it alone will not get us out of this mess. Simply put, individuals also need to change their behaviour.”

Mike

“I certainly see this as a consumer-friendly option. The expense could become overwhelming for provincial governments and I believe spending money on health care is very, very important as we need more health-care people in the system to complement existing health-care workers, doctors, nurses, registered nursing assistants, and many other support workers.”

Michael Abramowitz

You can thank Trudeau’s policies for our stagnant economy and deteriorating federal finances

Friday, January 12, 2024

“Obviously, the components of our fiscal health (growth, revenue/taxation, and spending) must be in balance over the medium term and beyond. Ideology has little to do with this practical reality at the top level. The current federal government has been chronically out of balance whether in ‘good’ times or ‘bad.'”

Paul Attics

“Being in my 20s, the increasing federal and provincial debt burdens are very worrisome. I say this because it will inevitably result in more taxation down the line, which, apart from costing my age cohort more, will also drive investment—and by virtue of this, jobs—out of our great country. When you combine these potential tax grabs with the fact that housing, food, etc., is increasingly unaffordable, it makes you question whether you can remain in Canada.”

Mike

Malcolm Jolley: A wine writers guide to a damp, not dry, January

Commentary

Karen MacNeil is one of the big guns of American wine writing, so when she posted an Instagram video in late December proclaiming not only that she hated the idea of Dry January, but that promoting it struck her as “self-righteous and puritanical” and “the first baby step towards another Prohibition” people took notice. To be fair to MacNeil, she pointed her critique at the wine industry, which she believes should focus more energy on promoting what she sees as the benefits of drinking wine in moderation.

MacNeil’s animus towards the month-long abstention from alcohol notwithstanding, the general consensus among wine writers I’ve read on both sides of the pond this year is marked ambivalence. We generally don’t like to be told not to drink but, by the logic of the Golden Rule, we are all loathe to tell anyone who decides they might like to take a break that they shouldn’t either.

Also, the truth is that anyone who writes about wine professionally can’t really take a month off tasting. I suppose if one was religious about spitting, that might count. Although that seems like a set-up for a worse torture than mere abstinence. What if I had the most exquisite mouthful of a rare wine on my cheeks? 

The party line in the wino media is: we don’t do Dry January, but we do do Damp January. Google it, and you’ll see what I mean. There are all kinds of justifications for it, and all kinds of tips and tricks on how to do it. I weigh in below, and I promise you there will be no mocktails.

Of course, the real beauty of Damp January is that you probably don’t really have to expend any actual effort to achieve at least a mild Damp January. In fact, I am pretty sure that, unless you were in hospital for the last thirty days, it would actually require an almost Herculean effort and stamina to drink more alcohol by volume and frequency in the first month of the year than the last.

Like any natural process, though, Damp January can be helped along. Here are three strategies to further reduce the mass of alcohol molecules circulating around the body between now and the end of January—or whenever you’d like. Like this column generally, they are designed to minimize pain and maximize pleasure.

Drop the numbers

Once on a trip of Canadian wine writers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a producer of renown turned the tables on us and asked a question. Why were North American journalists so hung up on alcohol by volume? Sure, he made wines that were regularly comprised of 15 percent or even more alcohol. But, he reasoned, if you only have a glass, that’s just a 3 percent difference from a Burgundy at 12 percent.

None of us had the courage to reply for fear of looking like barbarian drunkards. The trouble, we silently thought, is that sometimes one would like more than one glass, and in that case, a few points of variance on a wine’s “abv” can make a noticeable difference, especially on one’s demeanour the next day. A strategy to achieve Damp January without a drastic reduction in consumption could be to only drink wines with a low level of alcohol.

Unfortunately, there are three obstacles to this strategy. First, alcohol in wine is made from the fermentation of the sugar in the grape. Wines that show low alcohol levels can often be relatively high in “residual sugar” left behind when fermentation is stopped. Switching one vice for another seems counterproductive.

The second obstacle is related. Global warming means that it is increasingly difficult to find dry wines made anywhere in the traditional wine-making parts of the world with an abv under 13 percent. Even then, most regulatory regimes will let producers put an abv on the level within half or one percent of the actual lab result. So that 13 percent, might well be more like 13.5 percent or 13.9 percent.

The third obstacle is price. The sorts of places that naturally produce lower alcohol wines are cold, like Canada or high altitude sites, and expensive to make wine in. Again this seems counterproductive since one of the supposed benefits of Damp January is to save money, though the next strategy might address this.

Spend twice, drink half

When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I adopted a version of this strategy. Reasoning that since the number of wine drinkers in our house had temporarily diminished by 50 percent, I could afford to drink bottles twice the price of the ones we usually did without affecting the overall household budget. It didn’t work out well.

Or, perhaps I should say, it worked out too well. I had to abandon the project since it turns out it’s more difficult for me to put the cork back into a really tasty bottle of wine. That’s OK on Friday but not great on Tuesday night. My personal consumption began to make up for the deficit of my wife’s abstinence.

This strategy only works if you have the willpower to resist another glass of very fine wine, or can somehow get someone to tie you to a metaphorical mast. But in that case, it would be a pleasant way to move through the long month.

Take it to the table

Wine cultures are food cultures. In the parts of Mediterranean Europe where the tradition of making wine is long and strong, it is rarely consumed outside of a meal. As the French say: “wine is food.” The third strategy towards a Damp January is to stop drinking wine and only eat it.

Caveat: this strategy won’t work if you start having wine with every meal. A glass of Prosecco might be pleasant at breakfast on holiday, but it makes for a tiring workday. Even then, there is the danger that you could find yourself cooking and serving long multi-course dinners throughout the week. This might not work out for your waistline, but your family and friends will likely enjoy it. Tell them to bring a bottle to the table. There are worse ways to put a little warmth and light into a cold and dark Canadian winter’s night.