Saskatchewan tables bill to ‘axe the tax’ on natural gas bills as support for carbon tax cools nationwide

Support for the carbon tax continues to plummet across the country, from the west coast to Saskatchewan and the traditionally Liberal stronghold of Atlantic Canada.

Saskatchewan tables bill to ‘axe the tax’ on natural gas bills as support for carbon tax cools nationwide
The Canadian Press / Heywood Yu
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Support for the carbon tax continues to plummet across the country, from the west coast to Saskatchewan and the traditionally Liberal stronghold of Atlantic Canada.

According to a Leger poll commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), 77% of Atlantic Canadians want all forms of home heating to receive a carbon tax exemption. 

“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 Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. 

In October, the federal government removed the carbon tax from furnace oil for three years, only representing 40% of Atlantic Canadian households.

Yet nearly four-in-five residents (77%) want carbon tax relief for everyone, compared to fewer than one-in-six (13%) opposed to further carve-outs.

“Atlantic Canadians are sending a strong message to Trudeau and his Liberal MPs that their partial carbon tax exemption isn’t fair,” said Jay Goldberg, CTF Interim Atlantic Director. “Liberal MPs must listen to their constituents and take the carbon tax off everyone’s home heating bills.”

Liberal and Bloc MPs voted against a motion in the House of Commons to take the carbon tax off all forms of home heating energy. NDP and Conservatives MPs voted in favour of carbon tax relief but no cigar.

On July 1, Atlantic Canada observed higher fuel prices and pushed back against the federal government soon after.

"We have a lot of factors that are working against us, and we can ill afford to see a higher price paid by Islanders, or Atlantic Canadians, at the pump," said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey has penned two letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, imploring him to reverse the tax hikes, citing financial uncertainty for residents.

Dated August 15, Furey has repeatedly expressed concern about the "detrimental and disproportionate impact" a second carbon tax would have on taxpayers.  

According to Terrazzano, Nova Scotians paid the "single-biggest carbon tax hike in Canadian history" of 12 cents per litre, or $10 more per family at the pumps.

"The carbon tax makes the necessities of life more expensive, such as driving to work, keeping your home warm, or going to the grocery store," he added.

A separate poll, conducted by Innovative Research Group and commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), found twice as many B.C. residents oppose the carbon tax (49%) than are in support (24%).

Though opposition remains lowest among NDP (33%) and Green (34%) voters, most BC Conservative (72%) and BC United (61%) voters oppose the carbon tax.

While those earning under $40,000 a year and people aged 18-34 remain large proponents of the tax, over half of taxpayers earning more than $40,000 annually, as well as those over 35, vehemently oppose the policy. 

But net support for the carbon tax fell 28% in the past half-year, noted the taxpayers' group, citing “outrageous home heating bills that are drastically inflated by the carbon tax.”

In April, PBO Yves Giroux updated his federal carbon tax report from March 2022 to include Atlantic Canada and found that "most households will be worse off." 

"Only the bottom quintile is better off, but everybody else is likely worse," he said.

"The carbon tax will cost the average Nova Scotia household $431 more than they get in annual rebates," added Terrazzano.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), Nova Scotia families from the lowest earning quintile would receive $226 in federal rebates, whereas the highest earners would pay $4,368 annually in 2030. A similar family from Newfoundland and Labrador would receive $689, with the province's highest earners paying $4,872 in 2030.

In B.C., nearly two-thirds of voters, including a majority within all income brackets, age brackets, and voter bases, want relief at the pumps and in their home heating bills. 

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan government introduced legislation November 16 to stop collecting the federal carbon tax on natural gas bills with no further carve-outs expected for home heating. 

The Saskatchewan Party government announced the changes would enter into effect on January 1 in response to Ottawa’s decision to pause the tax on home heating oil almost exclusively in Atlantic Canada — excluding households that use natural gas.

"Our government is taking the necessary steps to protect Saskatchewan families' ability to afford to heat their homes this winter by removing the federal carbon tax from the natural gas bills of residential customers," said Dustin Duncan, the minister responsible for SaskEnergy, saving the average family $400 next year on their energy bills.

However, federal law stipulates that corporations who refuse to collect the carbon tax could face steep fines, with jail time probable for executives.

Duncan previously said he would go to “carbon jail” for not remitting the tax and would grant amnesty to all corporation employees in the legislation.

Moreover, a previous Leger poll has identified that most citizens don’t want to pay for climate action despite supporting efforts to counter 'climate change.'

"When you just ask people, 'Hey do you support all these great things?' they’re tripping over themselves to say yes," said Andrew Enns, executive vice president with Leger.

The intent behind the carbon tax is to disincentivize the use of fossil fuels by making them more expensive. However, Canadians largely didn’t seem to be changing their consumption patterns.

Less than a third (31%) of Canadians are travelling less because of the carbon tax, and three in ten (30%) are driving less. Moreover, most Canadians don't want to pay a carbon tax — period. They want it reduced or eliminated entirely.

Of respondents, over half (55%) wanted the carbon tax reduced (18%) or abolished (37%), while a quarter (27%) are content with the status quo, reported the National PostLess than one in five (18%) Canadians want to pay annual tax hikes until 2030, when all except Québec will pay $170 per tonne of carbon emissions.

"The carbon tax will not solve climate change," argued Carson Binda, B.C. director for the CTF.

As of April 1, Québec pays 9 cents per litre of gas. It will rise to 22.5 cents per litre of gas by 2030. Elsewhere it will rise to 37.6 cents in 2030.

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