The National Energy Board penalized Enbridge Pipelines Inc. $16,000 in February and $264,000 in March 2015 for four separate incidents in western Canada. The Harper Government set the maximum penalty for corporations under the NEB Act at $100,000 per incident.
Is that penalty sufficiently onerous that a company is unlikely to offend? Not likely. In 2014, Enbridge had annual revenues of $38 billion, total assets of $73 billion and equity of $19 billion. Statistics Canada reports median annual income of Canadians is $27,600 and median net worth per individual is about $85,000.
A fine of $100,000 to Enbridge is equivalent to a fine of 7¢ to a Canadian earning median income. Looking at net assets, a fine of $100,000 to Enbridge is equivalent to a fine of 45¢ to a person at the Canadian median.
Finland is a nation that believes in both progressive taxation and progressive punishment. The Guardian Newspaper reported how the system works:
A millionaire businessman in Finland has been fined €54,000 ($73,000 CAN) for speeding. While the businessman’s fine may seem extortionate, it is part of a tradition of “progressive punishment” that stretches back over nine decades.
In Finland, speeding fines are linked to an offender’s income.
Reima Kuisla was driving at 103 km/h (64mph) in an 80 km/h zone. The fine was calculated based on the €6.5m earnings posted on his 2013 tax return.
This is not even the highest ever financial penalty received for speeding in the country. Back in 2002, a Nokia executive received a €116,000 ($158,000 CAN) fine for speeding on his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Since 1921, some offences that require a non-custodial sentence in Finland have been punishable by “day-fines”. These are calculated on the basis an offender’s daily disposable income…
If the National Energy Board could impose fines against resource corporations equivalent to the impact a person with median income experiences when paying a $173 transit fare infraction ticket, the Enbridge penalty would be $238 million. Instead the maximum fine allowed by government is 0.042% of that amount.