On the eve of a scheduled rate increase, polling released yesterday by Pembina Institute shows that, three year’s since its implementation, British Columbia residents like their province’s carbon tax shift.

As the Vancouver Sun reports, the government was motivated, in particular, by a catastrophic expansion of pine beetle infestations in BC’s Interior forests fueled by increasing temperatures. The policy was designed to help meet the province’s goals to significantly reduce global warming emissions. It’s called a tax shift because it works by shifting taxes from stuff we want more of (personal and business income) to stuff we want far less of (pollution). (This is an idea that Sightline has been promoting since 1994—and especially since our 1998 book).

So far, BC is the only North American jurisdiction to apply a meaningful carbon tax. And British Columbians seem to feel pretty darn good about it.

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  • Notably, almost 7 in 10 BC residents are worried about global warming and the same share supports the province being a leader in taking action to solve the problem and “not waiting for other jurisdictions to take similar steps.”

    And a healthy majority believes that reducing greenhouse gas pollution either helps grow (36 percent) or has little impact (44 percent) on BC’s economy.

    “When the carbon tax was implemented in 2008, the province had a five-year schedule of increases, so this is the second-last increase to be imposed without further action by the B.C. finance ministry,” Pembina director Matt Horne told the Vancouver Sun.The government has not yet announced if it will maintain, increase or expand the tax after 2012. (About one quarter of carbon dioxide emissions—those related to industrial processes such as the removal and venting into the atmosphere of CO2 during the processing of raw natural gas—remain exempt from the tax.)

    The poll explored several ways in which the carbon tax could evolve:

    • Most respondents (69%) support applying the carbon tax to all sources of greenhouse gas pollution.
    • The most popular choice for new carbon tax revenue was government priorities like health care and education (56%), while the second choice was investing in climate change solutions like transit (49%).
    • While there was surprisingly strong support for continued increases in the carbon tax after 2012 (29%), a narrow majority preferred not to see an increase (51%). The poll also asked about preferred tax options and found carbon taxes to be the second most popular with almost three-quarters (71%) ranking them in their top three choices.
    Pembina Institute

    The poll was based on a representative sample of 830 British Columbians, conducted online from April 14th to 18th, by the national research firm Strategic Communications, Inc. The poll’s sample is reflective of BC’s actual regional, gender and age composition based on the 2006 Census. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of 3.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

    The numerical results for each question, including breakdowns by gender, region, income and age are available here (PDF). Polling and analysis were made possible by a grant from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.