News / Vancouver

Support for federal carbon pricing is falling as 2018 deadline looms: poll

More than half of Canadians said in 2015 they want to see a federal carbon-pricing plan but that has fallen to 44 per cent, according to Angus Reid Institute

Canada's federal plan for carbon pricing would result in an approximately 11-cent addition in gas prices by 2022.

Metro File

Canada's federal plan for carbon pricing would result in an approximately 11-cent addition in gas prices by 2022.

A new report from a Vancouver-based pollster suggests British Columbians are among the least likely to oppose the federal government's plan to impose carbon pricing, while overall support in Canada for the policy has fallen significantly in the last two years.

Four in ten people (44 per cent) that responded to an Angus Reid Institute poll said they support the federal government’s policy of issuing a minimum of $10 per tonne by next year.

In comparison, more than half of Canadians in spring 2015 told the pollster the federal government was not doing enough to fight climate change and that they would support a nation-wide carbon pricing plan.

Back then, Canada had Conservative federal government and Barack Obama was the President of the United States.

Fast forward two years and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a 2018 deadline for provinces to either implement their own carbon-pricing program or follow the federal guideline that would mean 11 cents more per litre at the pump by 2022. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has announced the U.S. will leave the Paris Agreement to limit emissions.

This new context plays into the variety of opinions Canadians have about federal carbon pricing, says Shachi Kurl, executive director at Angus Reid Institute.

“It’s one thing to support something in theory,” she said.

“Call it sticker shock, call it the reaction when you get to the till, there is a definite sense that this is going to have a tangible on my wallet and people can have an opinion about that.”

About 32 per cent of British Columbians strongly oppose a federal version of a carbon tax the province has had since 2008. But the poll also shows that 41 per cent would prefer the B.C. government continue to implement its own carbon tax program.

B.C.’s carbon tax is currently set at $30 per tonne. The federal government has set a target of $50 per tonne by 2022.

Residents in Alberta and Saskatchewan showed the least support for a federal carbon-pricing plan, with about 50 per cent strongly opposing the move.

At the other end of the spectrum, people in Quebec were the least likely to oppose the federal government on carbon pricing, with only 17 per cent strongly opposing the policy.

But the reality of a President Trump seems to have had a mixed effect on Canadians – some worry that a carbon pricing will put the country at an economic disadvantage while others see carbon pricing as a way to differentiate themselves from the American administration, Kurl suggested.

About 45 per cent of poll participants say Canada should hold off on carbon pricing to avoid a competitive disadvantage with the U .S., and slightly more (55 per cent) of participants say Canada should go ahead with carbon pricing despite the American administrations’ actions.

“You do see a split there. Canadians are slightly more inclined to say lets hold off, lets not put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage to the U.S," said Kurl.

But about half of respondents support the federal government’s plans to implement carbon pricing despite President Trump’s actions.

“That’s a case where dislike of Trump or distrust of the Trump government brings people back to oh we should be doing our thing.”

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