Poll: Canadians skeptical about carbon pricing
FRANCIS CAMPBELL THE CHRONICLE HERALD email@example.com @frankscribbler
A dismal failure by the federal Liberal government to clearly communicate its signature carbon-pricing policy has left many Canadians confused and skeptical about whether carbon pricing is doing much to combat climate change.
According to a poll conducted by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute, Canadians have a profound lack of awareness about how much they are paying in carbon taxing, whether they receive a rebate and if they are better or worse off financially with the combined tax and rebate.
In Nova Scotia, the carbon tax took effect Canada Day, adding 14.31 cents per litre to the price of gasoline and 17.39 cents per litre of diesel and light fuel oil, including furnace oil.
The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board said the federal government’s clean fuel regulations were to add 3.74 cents per litre of gasoline and 4.17 cents per litre for diesel oil as of July 7, the first regulator price setting after the regulations were applied.
The clean fuel regulations require gas and oil producers to gradually reduce their carbon intensity – the amount of carbon released during production and consumption of gas and diesel – by approximately 15 per cent below 2016 levels by 2030.
During the first week of July, then, Nova Scotians were paying an extra 18.05 cents per litre of gasoline and 21.46 cents per litre of diesel.
The federal government said that quarterly incentive rebates, first forwarded to Nova Scotians in September, would result in the majority of residents faring better financially with the carbon tax and the offsetting rebates.
The Nova Scotia rebate amounts to $248 for a family of four every three months, $124 for an individual adult, $62 for a second adult and $31 for each child.
Residents outside a census metropolitan area, which in Nova Scotia is Halifax, receive a 10 per cent supplement to their incentive rebates from the federal government.
At the urging of residents and Atlantic Liberal MLAS, the federal government announced in late October a three-year pause on levying the carbon tax on home heating oil.
The online Angus Reid Institute survey found that 42 per cent of 2,512 adult Canadians contacted between Nov. 10 and Nov. 14 called for the carbon tax to be abolished.
Other Canadians were less certain that the tax should be permanently withdrawn, but 17 per cent of those surveyed would lower it temporarily for the next three years and one in every four would hold off on any subsequent increases.
Fifteen per cent of those polled would continue as planned, with the next scheduled price increase in April.
NO REAL IMPACT
As cost-of-living concerns escalated for Canadians, there was also significant doubt about the impact of carbon taxes generally. Sixty-five per cent of those surveyed felt paying carbon taxes is not having any real impact on emissions.
One of every four felt they were making a difference, but only five per cent believe it is of great impact.
Overall, support for carbon pricing is higher in British Columbia and Quebec, the two provinces whose current programs were introduced before the federal program. In Quebec, 59 per cent support their province’s plan, while in federally regulated jurisdictions, including Nova Scotia, opposition hovers around three of every five respondents. Opposition to the carbon tax is highest in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but also reaches a level of 43 per cent in Atlantic Canada
The federal government’s carbon tax has been in effect since 2019, and the program has two components – a charge at the distributor level for fossil fuels and a separate charge on large industrial companies for the emissions they produce.
Both fossil fuel distributors and large industrial emitters pay the same carbon price, currently $65 per tonne. This has the effect of increasing the cost of fossil fuels used by Canadians, including at the gas station and for heating their home. The price for carbon is scheduled to increase $15 per year until it reaches $170 per tonne in 2030.
Angus Reid says its survey is influenced by Canadians’ changing priorities.
The proportion of Canadians surveyed that said climate change is among the top issues facing the country has dropped from 40 per cent in 2019, to 34 per cent in 2021, to 22 per cent in this latest study.
That has contributed to an 11-point drop in support for carbon pricing in Canada compared with 2021 levels.
In areas like Nova Scotia where the federal carbon tax is operating, the federal government states that 90 per cent of households will receive a quarterly rebate. The percentage of those saying they are relatively certain they received one, however, is much lower.
One in four Canadians eligible say they have not seen a rebate in the past year. Almost two-thirds, 63 per cent, say they have. Those in Ontario are the least likely to be certain they’ve received a carbon tax rebate, with 27 per cent of respondents in that province saying they have not received one and one in seven saying they don’t know either way.
In Atlantic Canada, 70 per cent of respondents were either certain they had received a rebate or thought they had.
Among those who have received a household rebate, at least 51 per cent in each eligible region of the country say they feel they pay more for the carbon tax than they receive back in benefits.
Among respondents who say they receive more or about the same amount in a rebate compared with what they spend on the carbon tax, four in five, or 79 per cent, support the carbon tax. Among those who say they spend more than they get back, four in five, or 82 per cent, say they oppose it.
Half of Canadians support the Liberal government’s exemption of home heating oil from the carbon tax and 34 per cent oppose it. Sixty-five per cent of respondents say all home heating fuels should be exempt.
While a majority of Canadians feel the cost of living should be a greater concern than the environment when it comes to policy, there have also been questions as to the federal government’s motivation when it comes to the recent exemption of home heating oil from the carbon tax, despite it being touted as a move made with cost of living in mind. Critics have called it politically motivated.
While they’re critical of the carbon tax, 54 per cent of Canadians say Canada should continue to commit to reaching its 2030 emission reduction targets.
A survey sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.