Most Atlantic Canadians want carbon tax carve-out extended to all home heating: poll

The Trudeau government’s exemption for heating oil has led to calls for more relief for Canadians

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OTTAWA — Nearly four out of five Atlantic Canadians want last month’s carbon tax carve-out to extend more than 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 to other forms of home heating at 77 per cent.

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Of those, 58 per cent are strongly in favour of extending the carve-out while 19 per cent report being somewhat in favour.

Thirteen per cent of respondents were opposed to that plan — seven per cent said they were somewhat opposed to extending the pause, while only five per cent reported strong opposition.

Ten per cent of respondents said they didn’t know.

Leger’s online poll was completed between Oct. 11 and 14 of 402 Atlantic Canadians over the age of 18.

Since the poll was conducted via an online panel, no margin of error can be assigned.

Late last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a three-year countrywide carbon tax exemption for Canadians who use home heating oil — a move largely seen as a last-ditch effort to boost flagging party support in Atlantic Canada, a region that relies heavily on the fuel.

This unprecedented carve-out of the Trudeau government’s cornerstone policy prompted other parties, pundits and even everyday Canadians to urge exemptions for other home heating fuels, as homeowners struggle against the current affordability crisis.

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Home heating oil, a refined petroleum product similar to diesel, is used by roughly three per cent of Canadian households.

A report released last week by the Parliamentary Budget Officer suggests 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 out on $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 comparatively rare — would see yearly carbon tax revenue shortfalls of between zero and three million dollars.

“The poll is crystal clear: more than three-quarters of Atlantic Canadians don’t think the government should be taxing people for heating their homes,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano.

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“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to buy off MPs in the region with his carbon tax carve-out, but Atlantic Canadians are demanding relief that’s fair for everyone.”

Overtures to the federal government to extend the carve-out to all home heating was met with a decidedly cool response from the government.

“There will absolutely not be any other carve-outs or suspensions of the price on pollution,” Trudeau told reporters at the time.

A non-binding 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 showing 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 would be significant. For many, a week or two’s worth of groceries,” he said.

A family using 2,500 litres of propane for home heating and cooking, he said, could potentially save $251.50 plus taxes — a figure he says could be higher given the fuel’s seasonal price changes.

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Savings for a family who uses natural gas could range between $272 and $335 annually, again depending on prices and usage.

While pundits like McTeague have long warned about affordability and energy, he said the days of ignoring the issue are long gone.

“It’s real now, and Canadians are not holding back their disdain for those advocating policies that are making the ability to make ends meet a lot more difficult,” he said.

While public support of a carbon pricing plan has always been strong in Canada, increasing concerns over affordability and food prices appear to have pushed climate change out of the public consciousness.

An August 2023 Abacus Data survey puts just 29 per cent of Canadians listing climate change as a top three issue — cost of living, housing affordability and health care rounded out the top three.

Peter Graefe, an associate political science professor at McMaster University, said strong public support is important with policies like carbon pricing.

“If it really does become unpopular, with the change of government there’s a pretty strong chance that a new government would remove it, especially if they made doing so a part of their platform,” he said.

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Graefe said last month’s “inexplicable” carve-out puts the Liberals’ carbon tax policy on the ropes.

“It’s hard to see how they would extend this to home heating sources across the country without fundamentally weakening the capacity of that carbon tax to do what it’s meant to do, which is to allow Canada to meet its international commitments,” he said, explaining that nearly all of the eggs in the federal government’s climate policy basket concern carbon taxes.

“There’s really not a ‘plan B’ — they would have to come up with a significantly new set of politics to mitigate.”

• Email: [email protected] | X: @bryanpassifiume

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