OTTAWA — Nearly four in five Atlantic Canadians want to extend last month’s carbon tax carve-out beyond just home heating oil, according to a new poll.
Commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Leger poll shows net support for extending the federal government’s three-year carbon tax pause on home heating oil over other forms of home heating to 77 percent.
Of those, 58 percent are strongly in favor of extending the carve-out while 19 percent report being somewhat in favor.
Thirteen percent of respondents opposed that plan — seven percent said they were somewhat opposed to extending the moratorium, while only five percent reported strong opposition.
Ten percent of respondents said they did not know.
Leger’s online poll was completed between Oct. 11 and 14 of 402 Atlantic Canadians at age 18.
Since the poll was conducted by an online panel, no margin of error can be assigned.
Late last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a three-year exemption from the nationwide carbon tax for Canadians who use home heating oil – a move widely seen as a last-ditch effort to boost flagging the party’s support in Atlantic Canada, a region highly dependent on fuel.
This unprecedented carving out of the Trudeau government’s policy foundation has prompted other parties, experts and even everyday Canadians to urge exceptions for other home heating fuel, as homeowners struggle with the current affordability crisis.
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Home heating oil, a refined petroleum product similar to diesel, is used by about three percent of Canadian households.
A report released last week by the Parliamentary Budget Officer suggests that Atlantic Canada stands to disproportionately benefit from the exemption compared to the rest of the country.
Between the 2023-24 and 2026-27 fiscal years, the federal government will lose $755 million in carbon tax revenue from home heating oil sales in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick .
Ontario, Canada’s largest user of home heating oil outside of the Atlantic provinces, will only see a $295 million drop in revenue over the same period, while the rest of Canada – where home heating oil use is relatively rare – will see annual carbon tax revenue shortfalls between zero and three million dollars.
“The poll is very clear: more than three-quarters of Atlantic Canadians don’t think the government should tax people for heating their homes,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to buy off regional MPs with his carbon tax carve-out, but Atlantic Canadians are demanding relief that’s fair for all.”
Overtures to the federal government to extend the carve-out to all home heating have been met with a decidedly cool response from the government.
“There is absolutely no other carve-out or suspension of the pollution price,” Trudeau told reporters at the time.
A nullity motion tabled in the House of Commons earlier this month by the Conservatives was defeated after the Bloc Québécois sided with the Liberals — a vote that significantly saw the federal NDP show a rare moment of support for the Tories.
Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, told the National Post that families are struggling amid Canada’s cost-of-living crisis.
“The savings for families will be significant. For many, a week or two’s worth of groceries,” he said.
A family using 2,500 liters of propane for home heating and cooking, he said, could potentially save $251.50 plus taxes – a number he says could be higher due to seasonal fluctuations in fuel prices.
The savings for a family using natural gas could be between $272 and $335 annually, again depending on prices and usage.
While pundits like McTeague have long warned about affordability and energy, he says the days of ignoring the issue are long gone.
“This is now true, and Canadians are not holding back their contempt for those who promote policies that make it harder to make ends meet,” he said.
While public support for a carbon pricing plan has always been strong in Canada, rising concerns over affordability and food prices appear to have pushed climate change out of the public consciousness.
A survey of August 2023 Abacus Data puts only 29 per cent of Canadians listing climate change as a top three issue — cost of living, housing affordability and health care rounding out the top three.
Peter Graefe, an associate political science professor at McMaster University, said strong public support is essential to policies like carbon pricing.
“If it’s going to be really unpopular, with a change of government there’s a pretty strong chance that a new government will remove it, especially if they made doing so a part of their platform,” he said.
Graefe said last month’s “inexplicable” carve-out puts the Liberals’ carbon tax policy on the ropes.
“It’s hard to see how they’re going to extend it to home heating sources across the country without undermining the capacity of that carbon tax to do what it’s supposed to do, which is allow Canada to meet its international commitments, ” he said, explaining. that almost all the eggs in the federal government’s climate policy basket involve carbon taxes.
“There really isn’t a ‘plan B’ – they have to come up with a significant new set of politics to mitigate.”
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