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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Regional politics of carbon taxation : lessons from British Columbia Peet, Chelsea


This research examines the reactions of British Columbians to the provincial carbon tax legislation implemented in 2008. It focuses particularly on northern interior communities and commuter suburbs in the Lower Mainland. In studying these jurisdictions, the paper attempts to explain the vocal opposition to the policy from communities in British Columbia’s northern interior and the quiescent reaction in the Lower Mainland. These responses are complicated by the fact that numerous sources have shown that northerners are not disproportionately impacted by the carbon tax, and in fact, commuters in the Lower Mainland tend to drive farther on average to get to work than rural British Columbians. Thus, the evidence indicates that the residents that appeared undisturbed by the carbon tax, and not the vocal citizens of northern BC, feel a greater impact from the implementation of the carbon tax policy. In light of this regional development, the paper attempts to address two questions. First, how can we explain the paradoxical reactions displayed by these jurisdictions? Second, what do the distinct reactions tell us about the politics of carbon pricing and about regional political dynamics in British Columbia? To answer these questions, the paper employs three theoretical approaches; Mancur Olson’s theory of collective action, electoral incentive theory, and an ideational argument. While each theory builds upon and reinforces the others, ideas are argued to have the greatest capacity to explain the outcomes in these distinct regions. Community identities that were perceived and formed long before the carbon tax policy was ever imagined manifested themselves in this new policy debate. The longstanding sense of regional alienation in the north was significant in fostering northern perceptions of the carbon tax policy, while the absence of such historic world views, as well as some with good policy motives, encouraged the reserved approach in the Lower Mainland.

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