Foreign Policy Blogs

The Increased Cost of Living is the Fuel for Protests

Yellow jacket “gilets jaunes” protesters in the streets of France.

It is an anachronism in today’s society that anyone in a developed country would rightly claim that there is no path to warm shelter, food and employment for most in a community. But the effect of added taxes in a policy to reduce carbon emissions is exactly what lead a father in Ontario, Canada to take to rap in protest of high energy prices for his family. Eventually there was a change in government in that province of Canada, and now it seems as if many large Canadian provincial leaders are fighting Justin Trudeau’s new federal Carbon Tax to take effect in 2019. With a government in Ontario that recently fell hard because of high energy prices, it is questionable on how Canada will apply a tax that recently sent French citizens to the streets in historic protests, postponing the application of the new tax by the will of the people clad is fluorescent yellow by way of their gilets jaunes.

Despite the claims that all money taxed will be put back in the pockets of citizens, and that the current government was elected to put in a carbon tax, the protest vote in Canada seems to have come in regional elections for Provincial governments. Canadians often do not spontaneously take to the streets to protest many issues, not to the same degree that has taken place in France. Even when there are large rallies they are often organised by Unions or other political action groups, that is common in Canada and is very common in France and many parts of the EU. The recent protests seemed to be organic in nature, taking on the character or historic French protests that brought down royal families, or more akin to 1% rallies that grouped masses of people in disdain of general inequality in society.

What seems to be clear is that middle income Canadian and middle income French citizens have a common goal, to be able to use enough of their earned money for their family, and not for added taxes, carbon or otherwise. When someone like Macron, who is a symbol of elite French banking executives is seen as being detached from everyday people, there is a natural motivation to challenge that sort of power. While there is an outlet for protest via the regional governments in Canada that are challenging the Federal Government, the French people did not see many effective alternatives for their dislike of the new policy, symbolically wearing brightly coloured vests so they could be seen by those in power. Adding carbon taxes is now seen as a more of a tool in where the least middle class people in a country’s democratic history can alter the lives of everyday citizens to such a degree that they no longer can provide an expected healthy living for their families. With the cost of living in France already one of the highest in the EU and Canadians set to pay up to $400.00 more a year for their food next year, a loss of a job combined with increased costs of living makes carbon taxes an unacceptable burden in those situations. Governments often forget that it is their duty to listen to the people, even if they do not understand them.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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