Controversy Erupts in Ottawa Over Carbon Taxes

Olivia Petrus
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, courtesy of True North

A political firestorm broke out in Canada this week surrounding changes and exemptions to the carbon tax. If you value your interprovincial friendships, this may be a topic to skip at your next pond hockey game.

What happened: It all started after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced adjustments to the federal carbon pricing system, ostensibly to address affordability issues.

  • The country’s carbon pricing adds a fuel charge on fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and natural gas, to account for their environmental impact. Consumers in the country currently face a federal minimum price of $65 CAD per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent. That increases to $170 per tonne by 2030.

Dishing out drama: Earlier this week, Prime Minister Trudeau introduced a series of changes to the carbon pricing rules:

  • Doubling carbon price rebates for rural Canadians.
  • Increasing rebates to a program for lower-income households in Atlantic Canada to switch to heat pumps.
  • Exempting Atlantic Canadians for three years on paying the carbon tax for home heating oil for Atlantic Canadians.

The exemptions sparked a backlash and accusations of regional favoritism across the country. Leaders in BCAlbertaSaskatchewanManitoba, plus Indigenous groups have all signaled their unhappiness of the move.

Playing politics? Critics believe the tax cut being singled out for Atlantic Canada was politically motivated. A Liberal Party stronghold for decades, the party has now fallen far behind rival Conservatives in the Atlantic Canada polls and the move may have been an effort to win back some votes.

  • Adding fuel to the carbon fire, Liberal Minister of Rural Economic Development Gudie Hutchings suggested in an interview this week that if other provinces wanted carve outs, they should elect more Liberal representatives.

When pushed on the break, Prime Minister Trudeau said there would be no other carve-out exemptions for other provinces.

Looking ahead: The Conservative opposition party plans to force a vote in the House of Commons next week to expand carbon price carveouts to all home heating fuels. The federal New Democratic Party, who currently solidify the Liberal Party’s coalition government, said on Thursday evening they would support the Conservative’s motion.