Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of July 1, 2008)


Carbon tax a burn to BBQ


  By John Martin

The Liberals have already incurred the wrath of gun owners, stay-at-home parents and a handful of other special interest groups. Now they’re about to find themselves in the crosshairs of yet another constituency not known for turning the other hog cheek – backyard barbecue warriors.

People who take their barbecuing seriously, or ‘quers as they refer to themselves, are in the midst of a barbecue renaissance. What has long been shunned and mocked as poor man’s cookery involving the cheapest, toughest cuts of meat is relishing in unprecedented popularity and ‘quers are finally getting the respect of the once dismissive culinary community. It’s still a far cry from Texas or the Carolinas but the Canadian barbecue scene is thriving and people who like their barbecue tend to like it a lot; an awful lot.

It should be interesting then, to see how barbecue aficionados take to Stephane Dion’s announced carbon-based cash grab. Just as B.C.’s carbon tax is about to stick it to propane and charcoal prices, barbecue fuel would be one of the first casualties of a national carbon tax that could waken tens of thousands of weekend pit masters from their afternoon beer nap. If charcoal and propane are being targeted it only makes sense they’ll soon come for our barbecues and grills. But the Liberals may have bit off a little more charred pork shoulder than they can chew on this one.

In the U.S., this past June 12th was proclaimed "Carbon Belch Day" by the citizens’ group, Grassfire. The plan was to encourage people to defy the doomsayers and send a mesquite smoke signal in opposition to the Lieberman-Warner bill; a carbon tax by any other name, by producing as much CO2 as possible. The virtual barbecue community took the pledge and organized countless barbecues across the country with the stipulation being one must burn 11 lbs. of charcoal per hour. It was also recommended the choice of meat be Boston pork butt or beef brisket, which typically take anywhere from 8 to 16 hours to smoke.

Most people are more articulate than Stephane Dion even when they’re gnawing on a Flintstone-sized, prime rib bone so it should be interesting to see how he sells his carbon tax to those for whom barbecue is a way of life. Is he going to pitch it during the annual summertime political barbecue circuit?  How will he pull that one off without looking even less genuine?

I’m hosting my own Carbon Belching BBQ this weekend for forty or so people and expect to go through more than 50 kilos of lump charcoal and hardwood over twelve hours. We’ll smoke cigars and chill the beer in one of those inefficient basement fridges from the 70s. And guess what? We’ll still end up leaving a smaller carbon footprint than Al Gore does each and every day in his energy sucking Tennessee mansion (there’s some damn fine barbecue in Tennessee, by the way).

Speaking of Al Gore, had he carried his home state in 2000 he would have been president with or without Florida (not much passes for barbecue in the sunshine state). Perhaps enough Tennessee barbecue folk foresaw the trouble Gore was going to cause and rallied the ‘que vote to ensure his defeat. Stephane Dion, Gordon Campbell and anyone else who wants to make life miserable for ‘quers might want to take note. You play with our fire – you get burnt.

 ‘Quers love the smell of hickory smoked ribs in the morning and the only way you’re getting our barbecues is prying them from our cold, stiff, soot-covered fingers.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008