Bruce Croxon Challenges Kevin O’Leary on Climate Change

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You have quoted one of your former professors, Sally Lerner, as saying “the definition of a good leader is someone who manages an economy to service the people and is also a steward for the environment for our future generations.” I couldn’t agree more.

But the policies you have announced to date are anything but good environmental stewardship. You have written open letters attacking Rachel Notley, Kathleen Wynne and Justin Trudeau for bringing in carbon taxes, but you haven’t proposed any positive alternatives.

Luckily there is a common sense, conservative version of carbon pricing. It’s called a revenue neutral carbon tax. That’s what free enterprise governments have done in British Columbia. It’s supported by people like Preston Manning and Arthur Laffer, the guy who helped design Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts. Even one of your fellow Conservative leadership candidates, Michael Chong, supports it. Maybe you can ask him about it when you show up for your first leadership debate.

With a revenue neutral carbon tax, government would put a price on carbon, whether on emissions from business or gasoline for our cars or natural gas heating our homes – but every dollar of carbon revenues would be returned to taxpayers in other tax cuts.

Under this system, people would pay a bit more at the pump or on their gas bill, but they would get back as much or more in tax cuts or tax credits that would help them afford these higher costs.

And how will large Canadian carbon emitters like oil and gas companies or steel or cement makers compete if we have a carbon tax but our competitors like the United States don’t? Well, we can deal with this by giving free allowances or cash rebates to companies in sectors that depend on trade. And we can make Canadian business in general more competitive by reducing corporate taxes.

As a businessman, Kevin, you know that it is high personal and corporate income taxes that hurt Canada’s competitiveness. Well by taxing pollution instead of income, we can lower those other taxes and make Canada more competitive.

Kevin, you’ve said that you can’t become Prime Minister without the youth vote. And you’re right. The Conservative vote among 18 to 29 year olds dropped from 33% to 19% between the 2011 and 2015 election.[1] That means they lost about 40% of their young voters.

But here is the cold hard truth: you won’t win the youth vote if you don’t care about the environment.

72% of young Canadians believe that climate change is a threat to our future and 58% of them support putting a price on carbon[2]. How are you going to win back young Canadians if you don’t care about the issues that they care about?

I know that you used to be open to the idea of a carbon tax – I’ve seen the video of you talking about it. Somebody must have told you that you couldn’t become Conservative leader if you supported one. But here’s the thing: you will never become Prime Minister if you don’t have a plan to deal with climate change. And the smart, conservative way to deal with climate change is with by putting a price on carbon but sending every dollar back to consumers and businesses as tax cuts.

So let’s hope you can live up to your own definition of leadership and bring forward a smart plan that both manages the economy and shows good environmental stewardship. I’ll be watching you Kevin!

Bruce Croxon is co-founder and partner of Round 13 Capital, and a former dragon from Dragon’s Den

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