Trudeau pulls carbon tax from home heating oil as poll numbers plunge in Atlantic Canada

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who has consistently called for the government to remove the carbon tax entirely, said this was a climb down based entirely on polls

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OTTAWA – Facing bad political headwinds in Atlantic Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to reduce the financial impact of his carbon tax Thursday, temporarily removing the tax from home heating oil and boosting rebates for rural residents.

Trudeau made the announcement Thursday afternoon with the members of his Atlantic caucus standing behind him. Home heating oil will be exempt from the carbon tax for the next three years across the country, currently rural residents get a 10 per cent boost to the carbon tax rebate payments and that will climb to 20 per cent starting next year.

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Trudeau said the changes were about adapting the program recognizing people in Atlantic Canada in particular were struggling.

“The highest proportion of people with home heating oil across the country are in Atlantic Canada and that’s why this hit them particularly hard as the provincial pricing systems were replaced by the federal pricing system,” he said.

In most of the country, heating oil is rarely used, but in Atlantic Canada it is used in 40 per cent of homes.

The Atlantic provinces have been a stronghold for Trudeau since his election in 2025, with him holding every seat after the 2015 campaign, but several recent polls show him losing his hold over the region. A Pallas Data poll released on Wednesday showed the Liberals at 31 per cent in the region well behind the Conservatives at 38.2 per cent. The poll reached out to 1,484 people and has a margin of error of 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Liberal MP Ken McDonald, from Newfoundland and Labrador, has twice voted with the Conservatives on anti carbon tax motions.

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The second time, which happened in early October, McDonald told reporters he felt it was “not the time” to make fuel and other necessities more expensive, and sided with the Newfoundland premier, Andrew Furey, in calling for exemptions for home heating fuel in the province.

“I’ve said before, I do believe in climate change and that we do need to do something about it but not to increase prices at this time. I just think it’s the wrong time to bring in those policies,” McDonald had said.

Trudeau insisted Thursday that overall the carbon tax remains a key policy for the government and is essential to fighting climate change.

“Economists and experts around the world have long known that putting a price on carbon emissions is the best way to drive down those emissions that cause climate change, is the cheapest, most efficient and most impactful way and it’s working,” he said.

Trudeau also announced boosts to existing programs to help people switch from heating oil to electric heat pumps. A previous $10,000 grant program has been boosted to $15,000 and the government is offering a $250 incentive to people who make the switch.

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Trudeau said the programs would make a heat pump effectively free for people who make below the median income and people who install them would save thousands on their energy bill every year.

He said in the long-term these policy changes will further reduce carbon emissions by getting more people to use heat pumps.

“The price signal on heating oil is not resulting in enough people being able to switch to electric heat pumps, despite people wanting to move to these cleaner home heating options,” he said. “If we get Canadians to switch off on heating oil for heat pumps, they’re going to save money. It’s going to be significantly better for the environment. And everyone is going to end up better off.”

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, who has been calling consistently for the government to remove the carbon tax entirely, said this was a climb down based entirely on polls.

“After plummeting in the polls, a flailing, desperate Trudeau is now flipping and flopping on the carbon tax as I am holding a gigantic axe the tax rally in a Liberal-held Atlantic riding,” Poilievre said on the social media platform X. “He is admitting he’s not worth the cost.”

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NDP MPs Laurel Collins and Charlie Angus released a joint statement calling the move insufficient.

“For the last two years, the rising cost of living has been devastating for Canadian families struggling to pay for their mortgages, groceries, and home-heating fuel,” they said. “New Democrats would like to see relief provided to families in other parts of the country who are struggling to make ends meet. The Liberals seem to be hand picking who they help based on their own political interests, leaving families in Northern Ontario, Alberta and other parts of the country behind.”

With additional reporting by Catherine Lévesque

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Originally posted 2023-10-26 22:06:21.