It is in many ways the ultimate money question for the local tourism industry.
How will the provincial carbon tax impact ‘rubber’ traffic on which local tourism operators depend so much.
The answer, it appears, remains outstanding. With the high price of gasoline already squeezing many budgets, questions about the economic impact of the provincial carbon tax designed to flight change have once appeared in the public discourse. Some background first.
The B.C. Liberals under then-premier Gordon Campbell introduced the carbon-tax in 2008 to combat the effects of climate change.
The tax adds a surcharge on various kinds of carbon-based fuels. It continues to earn criticism following its introduction from environmentalists — who say it is not high enough and misdirected — and business groups including local fruit growers and other business — who say it has cut into profit margins. This levy — which does not cover all available fuels and sectors of the economy -— recently rose to 4.45 to 5.56 cents per litre as it turned three years old on July 1.
That day also happens to be one of the busiest driving days across the country, including Summerland, where locals officials tracking tourism figures reported to be “really busy” during the Canada Day long-weekend.
Lisa Jaager, general manager of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism, cited improvements in the weather and the end of school as factors for this increase.
She also predicted that Summerland will see another surge of visitors once the Calgary Stampede wraps up later this month.
Less certain though is the impact of the carbon tax on already-high gas prices, which have historically risen during the busy summer travel months.
This latest hike in the provincial carbon tax has also unfolded against the back-drop of political unrest in the Middle East and on-going economic uncertainty in the United States as well as Europe — variables that may all impact the cost of gasoline in the short, medium and long term with implications for the long-term state of the economy.
Jaager said the chamber pays attention to gas prices because local tourism operators depend on vehicular traffic because tourists cannot reach Summerland any other way.
Whether high gas prices have impacted tourism so far remains an open question.
“At this time, we have not seen an impact yet,” said Jaager, adding that the number of recreational vehicles has so far not visibly declined.