Conservatives to force vote on exempting all forms of home heating from federal carbon tax

Pressure is increasing on Justin Trudeau, who has said there will be no more carve-outs on the carbon tax

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OTTAWA — Conservatives will force a vote on a motion that calls on the government to freeze the federal carbon tax on all forms of home heating until the next election, and then ask Canadians at the polls to decide if they want the price reapplied.

“A carbon tax election,” leader Pierre Poilievre proposed in a speech to his caucus Wednesday morning, seizing on the public’s anxiety about affordability and seeing a crack in the Liberals’ carbon-price armour.

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Conservatives will be use their “opposition day motion” on Thursday to bring up the grievances of Canadians who feel left out from the federal government’s new exemption on home heating oil.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already said there will be no other carve-outs or exemptions on the carbon tax, but the pressure is increasing from provincial premiers and parties.

British Columbia Premier David Eby added his voice to his counterparts in Alberta and Saskatchewan in saying that the federal carve-out targeted mainly at Atlantic Canadians is unfair, and that Canadians from coast to coast are struggling with home heating bills.

Premiers Scott Moe and Danielle Smith are asking Ottawa to apply the same exemption to natural gas, used mainly by the residents in their provinces.

Even the new NDP government in Manitoba is looking for “greater fairness” from the federal government in offering the same carbon tax breaks to Manitobans as in eastern Canada, while promising to work collaboratively with its federal partners to make that happen.

In a speech to his caucus, Poilievre accused Trudeau of turning Canadians against each other as the federal Liberals are dipping in the polls.

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“What does he do when the heat starts? He divides and distracts. He will once again tear apart the country, turn Canadian against Canadian. We know how he does it. He divides by race, sexuality, vaccine status, and now region,” Poilievre said on Wednesday.

“His latest tactic is to charge higher carbon taxes on some people than on other people.”

Poilievre, who wants to kill the carbon tax, said he wants to make a deal with the prime minister.

“Let’s pause the carbon tax on all home heating until Canadians go to the polls, so that we can have a carbon tax election,” he said.

Trudeau seemed eager to go to battle with Poilievre over climate action.

“I think Canadians are deeply, deeply concerned about the need to continue to fight climate change in ways that makes life more affordable for them,” he said.

“That’s what we’re doing and that is absolutely something I am going to continue to stand for unequivocally, while Mr. Poilievre has no plan to fight climate change and therefore no plan for the economy.”

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The federal Liberals have been stressing that while the Atlantic caucus drove the changes for its residents, the exemption on home heating oil applies across the country.

Liberal MP Kody Blois, who is chair of the Atlantic caucus, said approximately one million Canadian households still use oil to heat their homes —  including a quarter of them in Atlantic Canada — and they will benefit from the tax exemption too.

In fact, he said, over 250,000 households in Ontario and 400,000 households in Quebec rely on oil, mostly in northern and rural communities. While the federal price on carbon applies in Ontario, Quebec has had its own cap-and-trade system for the past decade.

“The reality is that home heating oil, yes, it is acute in Atlantic Canada, but make no mistake, this is a national program,” said Blois.

Minister of Employment Randy Boissonnault, who represents a riding in Edmonton, said he heard the concerns of premiers in western Canada but urged them to participate in the joint program to subsidize heat pumps to help their constituents transition from oil.

All provinces can decide to participate in the federal subsidy program, provided they match the federal contribution of $5,000 to install a new heat pump.

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Until now, only residents of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where significant numbers heat their homes with oil, have taken up the offer, but the federal government is prepared to make that offer to other provinces who want it.

Boissonnault stressed that home heating oil costs four times the price of natural gas and produces twice the greenhouse gas emissions. “Back home, we have more choice,” he said.

The new Conservative motion to extend the pause on carbon tax to all forms of home heating will be subject to a vote next week, most likely on Monday, making it the 22nd time since 2017 that the party has presented motions or bills aimed mostly at gutting or repealing the carbon tax.

Liberals have mostly voted against, except for Liberal MP Ken McDonald who voted twice with the Conservatives. One of those motions was specifically to “call on the government to exempt all forms of home heating fuel from the carbon tax for all Canadians.”

The Bloc Québécois and the NDP have agreed to support exemptions for marketable natural gas and propane but did not vote in favour of exempting home heating fuels.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s preferred option is to remove the GST from all home heating; Poilievre pointed out that provincial New Democrat parties across the country are “condemning” the federal government’s latest exemption on the carbon tax.

“So the question becomes, what will Jagmeet Singh do? Will Jagmeet Singh stand with provincial NDPers?” Poilievre asked. “Or will he once again sell out working-class Canadians in order to suck up to Justin Trudeau? He’ll have a chance to make that decision on Monday.”

National Post, with additional reporting by The Canadian Press

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