Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
Ordinary people loathe carbon taxes – and might bring down your government.
A month of sustained protest has brought the government of France to its knees. Here are five key insights:
UN: This is a genuinely grassroots protest. French motorists are obliged by law to carry fluorescent vests in their cars. The hundreds of thousands of mothers and grandmothers, fathers, brothers, and uncles who’ve donned these vests are known as the gilets jaunes – the yellow vests. They span the political spectrum.
DEUX: Images of rioting in Paris are everywhere, but communities across the nation have experienced ongoing, peaceful protests. This movement was sparked by carbon taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel that were scheduled to begin in January.
Carbon taxes deliberately make driving more expensive. They’re supposed to encourage the use of public transit, in the name of combating climate change. But while Parisians are able to hop on a marvelous subway system, they represent less than 20% of France’s 67 million citizens.
Ordinary people residing outside of large urban centers depend on their cars. These individuals were outraged that, even though taking transit isn’t a realistic option, their government planned to penalize them both directly and indirectly. (When fuel costs more it follows that every bag of flour, packet of diapers, and crate of medicine that gets shipped between points A and B also costs more.)
TROIS: These carbon taxes have now been cancelled. First they were put on hold for six months. Then they were scrapped altogether.
QUATRE: The protests have shaken the government and done serious damage to the economy. In order to restore calm, President Emmanuel Macron may need to resign a mere 18 months after he was elected.