Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
‘Winter mortality is lower when the price of heating is lower’: new research report.
Last month, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a dramatic working paper. Its conclusion: when US home heating costs fell, fewer people died.
In the authors’ words, we’ve known for decades that “mortality peaks in winter and that cold weather is associated with higher mortality.” When home heating gets expensive, many people – especially the poorest members of our community – turn down the thermostat. But lower indoor temperatures are associated with an uptick in fatal strokes, heart attacks, and infections.
After collecting reams of data, and performing careful calculations, the researchers conclude that US heating bills declined noticeably between 2005 and 2010 “due to the boom in shale production of natural gas.”
That price decline, they write, “caused a 1.6% decrease in the winter mortality rate for households using natural gas for heating.”
Only 58% of American households heat with natural gas, so the drop in the death rate for the US population as a whole over a full calendar year works out to about half a percentage point. The bottom line: lower energy prices saved 11,000 lives annually.
Which brings us to the carbon tax recently imposed on all sources of home heating here in more northerly Canada. Enbridge, the company which supplies natural gas to Ontario homes, says it needs to raise the price it charges households by 11% just to pay for this carbon tax.
If deaths drop when heating costs decline, they’ll surely increase when heating costs spike. So let’s not beat around the bush: Canada’s carbon tax is going to kill people.
Extrapolating from those US numbers, 1,100 Canadians will die unnecessarily next winter. And the winter after that. And the one after that. As the size of the carbon tax increases, the number of annual victims may well rise in tandem.
Certain categories of people are at higher risk of death-by-carbon-tax. People whose health is already compromised. People who are already struggling to pay their bills. (Seniors, of course, are over-represented amongst both groups.)
There’s nothing heroic about a policy that consigns old people to shivering in the dark. That’s an attack on our most vulnerable. That’s a betrayal.
When people die from opioid overdoses, our Prime Minister rightly calls it a ‘crisis.’ He calls it “devastating. Families ripped apart. Communities forever altered. Loved ones lost too soon.” Yet his carbon tax has set into motion a wave of similar tragedy and sorrow.
Where global carbon dioxide emissions are concerned, Canada’s 1.6% contribution is so trivial that nothing we do can possibly make a difference. We’re a rounding error, simply irrelevant to the big picture.
Which means that Canada’s carbon-tax-induced deaths won’t just be premature, they’ll be utterly meaningless.