Poll sug­gests ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans op­pose prov­inces tak­ing Ot­tawa to court over car­bon tax

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - SHAWN MCCARTHY GLOBAL EN­ERGY RE­PORTER OT­TAWA

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has a solid base of sup­port, though with clear pock­ets of op­po­si­tion, as it moves to im­pose a car­bon pric­ing plan in prov­inces that refuse to adopt their own sys­tem, a new poll in­di­cates.

At the same time, Cana­di­ans ap­pear to have mis­giv­ings about a move by gov­ern­ments in Saskatchewan and On­tario to launch a le­gal chal­lenge to the fed­eral car­bon-tax plan, the poll of 1,000 peo­ple by Nanos Re­search sug­gests.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is en­gaged in a po­lit­i­cal bat­tle over cli­mate pol­icy and car­bon taxes with On­tario Premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who are al­lied with fed­eral and Al­berta con­ser­va­tive politi­cians.

Mr. Ford has al­lo­cated $30-million to have On­tario join Saskatchewan in the court bat­tle seek­ing a dec­la­ra­tion that Ot­tawa is ex­ceed­ing its ju­ris­dic­tion by im­pos­ing a car­bon tax in their prov­inces. New Brunswick Premier Brian Gal­lant and Man­i­toba’s Brian Pal­lis­ter have sug­gested the court ac­tion is un­likely to suc­ceed.

“Cana­di­ans gen­er­ally don’t want prov­inces to go to court to fight the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in terms of stop­ping a fed­eral car­bon tax,” poll­ster Nik Nanos said. “I think it’s one of those things where there’s a de­fault view where peo­ple say, ‘Are we go­ing to have a patch­work en­vi­ron­men­tal regime in Canada or are we go­ing to have a car­bon strat­egy of some sort?’ ”

On the ques­tion of tak­ing Ot­tawa to court, 58 per cent ei­ther strongly or some­what op­posed the ac­tion. Some 60 per cent of On­tar­i­ans voice op­po­si­tion, ac­cord­ing to the Nanos poll, which has a higher mar­gin of er­ror for pro­vin­cial break­downs due to smaller sam­ple size.

“When we look at the car­bon tax, it’s not as if it’s a com­plete slam dunk. The re­al­ity is a third of Cana­di­ans are mushy on this − ei­ther some­what sup­port or some­what op­pose it,” Mr. Nanos said.

The poll − con­ducted by tele­phone and on­line − was com­mis­sioned by The Globe and Mail, and has a mar­gin of er­ror of 3.1 per­cent­age points, 19 times out of 20.

Some 60 per cent of re­spon­dents sup­ported the need for a car­bon tax to en­cour­age Cana­di­ans to con­sume fewer fos­sil fu­els, with 41 per cent strongly en­dors­ing that pol­icy. Sup­port ranged from 72 per cent in Que­bec to just 41 per cent on the Prairies, where res­i­dents are more re­liant on fos­sil fu­els for jobs and to heat their homes and power their elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion. In On­tario, 63 per cent of re­spon­dents ei­ther strongly or some­what sup­ported the car­bon tax.

The On­tario gov­ern­ment is now de­bat­ing a bill that will kill the cap-and-trade pro­gram ini­ti­ated by former premier Kath­leen Wynne, which set a limit on emis­sions from fuel mar­keters and in­dus­trial pol­luters and in­cluded a mar­ket for al­lowances aimed at keep­ing over­all costs down.

As a re­sult, the fed­eral Lib­eral gov­ern­ment will im­pose its car­bon tax, start­ing at $20 a tonne in Jan­uary and ris­ing to $50 a tonne − or 11.6 cents a litre of gaso­line − in 2022. Ot­tawa re­cently eased its pro­posed tax on fos­sil-fuel emis­sions. The net ef­fect of the changes means that in­dus­tries will re­ceive cred­its on emis­sions up to 80 per cent of the in­dus­try av­er­age, and up to 90 per cent for in­dus­tries most at risk of for­eign com­pe­ti­tion.

Un­der the orig­i­nal plan, the fig­ure was 70 per cent for all in­dus­tries.

Pro­vin­cial En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Rod Phillips said this week that the Ford gov­ern­ment will re­lease a plan with a se­ries of mea­sures, in­clud­ing reg­u­la­tions, to re­duce emis­sions. He would not com­mit to set a tar­get con­sis­tent with Canada’s pledge un­der the Paris cli­mate agree­ment to re­duce green­house-gas emis­sions by 30 per cent be­low 2005 lev­els by 2030.

When we look at the car­bon tax, it’s not as if it’s a com­plete slam dunk. The re­al­ity is a third of Cana­di­ans are mushy on this − ei­ther some­what sup­port or some­what op­pose it. NIK NANOS POLL­STER

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