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Critics slam Trudeau’s carbon tax retreat as a boon for ‘worst polluters’

Lee HardingThe misplaced idea that carbon dioxide is pollution underpins the dubious concept of the carbon tax. Never mind that there is no easy connection between CO2 and temperatures, except in the easily questioned computer models created by climate change proponents.

Nevertheless, the carbon tax policy stands as the flagship climate change initiative of the Trudeau government. This tax has led to increased energy costs nationwide and exacerbated inflation, all without making any meaningful impact on reducing harmless carbon dioxide emissions.

The primary consequence of the carbon tax is a gradual reduction in everyone’s living standards year after year. However, it seems to have achieved another unintended result: eroding support for the Liberal government. Last week, their clumsy attempt to address both political and policy issues resulted in federal arguments for the carbon tax becoming utterly contradictory.

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On Oct. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a three-year moratorium on carbon taxes for home heating oil, a move that may have been politically savvy but raised policy questions.

“We’ve heard clearly from Atlantic Canadians through our amazing Atlantic MPs that since the federal pollution price came into force … certain features of that pollution price needed adjusting to work for everyone,” Trudeau stated.

Back in July, the Atlantic provinces were tasked with presenting substantial proposals to Ottawa in an attempt to exempt themselves from the federal carbon pricing program. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, and as a result, their residents began to feel the financial strain. While fuel oil usage is limited to only three percent of all Canadians, it is relied upon by forty percent of Atlantic Canadians.

The backlash in Atlantic Canada posed a significant political challenge for the Liberals, given that the party holds 24 of the 32 seats in the region. Trudeau’s solution? Discard the carbon tax temporarily to shore up his diminishing support in the region.

The challenge then lay in how to justify the move.

“We are doubling down on our fight against climate change and … supporting Canadians while we fight climate change,” the PM asserted.

“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,” the PM insisted.

This argument cannot be reconciled except in political terms. The exemption for fuel oil was announced just hours before Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre held his scheduled “Axe the Tax” rally against carbon taxes in Windsor, N.S., the riding of Liberal Atlantic Caucus chair Kody Blois.

In essence, this is a national but regionally tailored policy adjustment for a carbon tax that both works and doesn’t work. Changing taxes or offering grants is unlikely to have any impact on the weather, but granting fuel oil an exemption was unwarranted.

The heat output per gallon of fuel oil is 138,690 British Thermal Units, which is nearly equivalent to that of natural gas (139,050 BTU). However, natural gas produces only 117 lbs of CO2 per million BTU, whereas distillate fuel oil produces more than 160 lbs. So, those considered the “worst polluters” received a reprieve.

Meanwhile, residents west of Quebec, where natural gas usage ranges from 49 to 77 percent, will continue to pay carbon taxes, as they have been doing, and the burden will increase every April. Moves like this are why a federal government has held onto power despite not winning the popular vote since 2015.

Poilievre’s plan to abolish the carbon tax appears to be a sensible policy solution.

Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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