Would Canadians support a carbon tax? - Macleans.ca

Would Canadians support a carbon tax?

Maybe. But if it were that easy, Stephane Dion would be PM


Keith Neuman of Environics argues the public is willing to accept a tax on carbon emissions.

Let’s start with the B.C. carbon tax, which was introduced by then-Premier Gordon Campbell with surprisingly little advance preparation of the political or public ground. Public opinion surveys conducted just after the announcement showed a modest majority of British Columbians in support of the new policy. This support wavered later in the year when the tax came into effect at the same time gas prices spiked, but later recovered and subsequently withstood a frontal attack by the NDP in the 2009 provincial election. Today, the B.C. carbon tax is supported by a clear majority (64 per cent) of provincial residents, and unlikely to be an issue in the upcoming May election.

Does British Columbia represent an anomaly that could not be repeated in other parts of the country? In fact, research conducted by Environics Research and more recently the Environics Institute shows that a majority (59 per cent) of Canadians outside of B.C. would support the introduction of a B.C. style carbon tax in their own province, a proportion that has been slowly building over the past four years. Majority support for such a tax is expressed in all provinces except Alberta (at 43 per cent), and is most widespread in Quebec (67 per cent), followed by Manitoba (59 per cent), Saskatchewan (58 per cent), Ontario (58 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (54 per cent).

The research from Environics, which has been asking about a BC-style carbon tax since February 2008, shows that support has gradually increased and strong opposition has decreased. But its finding would seem to clash with what a survey conducted for Environment Canada found last June. In that poll, 43.5% of respondents disagreed with the idea of a federal carbon tax.

On that count, it is probably worth noting how the survey questions were phrased.

Here is what Environics asked.

As you may know, British Columbia now has a tax on all carbon-based fuels used by consumers and businesses in the province, as a way to encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions generated in the province. This tax is now 7.2 cents per litre. This tax is “revenue neutral” which means the same amount raised through this tax each year is refunded – by law – to taxpayers in the form of lower personal income and corporate taxes. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this carbon tax for B.C.?

And here is the statement that Environment Canada tested.

Canada needs to implement a federal carbon tax to promote energy efficiency and protect the environment, even though it means increasing the cost of things like gas and groceries for consumers.

The “gas and groceries” elucidation is popular with Conservatives who seek to denigrate the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal.

This would seem to suggest that how the proposal is presented has some impact on how the proposal is received. See also this survey from 2008.

And there are at least two other complications here. First, neither the Liberal proposal of a carbon tax in 2008, nor the NDP’s proposal of cap-and-trade match the proposal presented by Environics: Stephane Dion would have used some of the revenue to assist low-income families, Thomas Mulcair would use most of the revenue for environmental initiatives.

Second, if the Conservatives can successfully turn an election into a race between those who would tax carbon and those who wouldn’t, the polling split combined with the current political split still basically favours the Conservatives: supporters of a carbon tax (59%) split between the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens, while opponents of a carbon tax (38%) would have only the Conservatives. Of course, the Conservatives can’t claim that their policies on greenhouse gas emissions won’t include costs and of course the current Conservative position on cap-and-trade is entirely at odds with their position from 2004 through 2009, but if it’s a referendum on the phrase “carbon tax,” the Conservatives seem to start with the math in their favour.

The Stephane Dion experience demonstrated that no matter how much a policy can be justified, it still needs sufficient popular support and political execution to be enacted. Polling numbers such as these should have some impact on the discussion. But they obviously don’t quite win the debate.


Would Canadians support a carbon tax?

  1. Of course people support the Environics proposition, because the way it’s worded, it seems that nobody will pay more in the end, so it seems like a good idea.

    The problem is that the federal parties supporting a carbon tax aren’t proposing a revenue-neutral tax shift, they’re proposing the money be used to fund more of their radical social engineering experiments. That, and the fact that people outside of Alberta generally envision a carbon tax that will simply be a transfer of wealth from Alberta to the rest of the country (which it would be), and if there’s one thing Canadians love, it’s robbing from Alberta.

    • LOL ahhh the victim card again.

      Except Alberta doesn’t have any money. Just deficits and a debt. Very bad management.

      • Alberta has $0 provincial debt. Get your facts straight if you’re going to claim to be an “economist”.

        • What we need is a tax on really stupid comments on Macleans. Just think of the cash we’d raise just from this forum alone. No debt? The fumes from the oil patch must be getting to you.

        • Not what the news says Ricki-ticki.

          Don’t troll without thinking.

          • Rick and Thwin are right: Alberta has no debt except for the upcoming provincial budget forecast to go into debt again. Learn how to read the news before commenting on it EmilyOne.

          • Emily has proven time and again that she has reading comprehension issues.

          • I know, but once in a while I keep reminding her, hoping that she will take us up on the advice given… :)

            I’m an optimist by nature. I think there is hope for everyone.

          • No debt or just a sneaky little zero sum game with the financial records? A technicality you say? You bet. Because when Ms. Redford’s tory party tries to balance the books after she tables the next fiduciary guidelines, and finds that the cookie jar is empty, they’ll be in the red for a long long time. The concept of Alberta having zero debt is at this point in time just wishful thinking. But then that’s what fairy tales are made of.

          • Well it doesn’t surprise me at all that the “news” you consume would be so horribly wrong. It’s probably on Wikipedia though, the only place you ever quote.

          • LOL wiggle wiggle, squirm squirm…..says Ricky the Troll.

          • Emily, the very article you cite says Alberta is covering this through their contingency fund. Alberta owes nothing to any bondholders, therefore they have no debt.

            Try reading what you post.

          • Do you know what deficits add up to?

          • Yes, precisely nothing owing to outside creditors if you have a contingency fund to pay them out of.

          • There there, I’m sure it will be alright. Selling the silver doesn’t mean…you know…ssshhhh….broke.

          • Not being from Alberta, I’m going to step aside from the issue of whether going into debt is a bad thing. I’m just stating they’re not there yet, per the article you cited. G’day.

          • Amazing how many of you are no longer ‘Albertan’. LOL

          • 1) Who are the collective ‘you’ you’re referring to?
            2) I was born, raised and have lived in SW Ontario my whole life. Where are you from? And I only ask that as evidently it matters.

          • Hey, Bram is up for a game of circles today….tried it with me earlier but I was busy

            Maybe you could go play with him and then you’d both be happy.

          • Um, again, you keep responding to me. If you don’t want to talk, then stop talking.

          • I did.

            You are responding to me…when you could just bugger off and play with Bram.

            See? Told you I wasn’t playing Circles with you. LOL


          • You’re the one who goes in circles all the time. As your comments on this thread show, you have once again made yourself dizzy.

          • Ahhh you two have met. Wonderful.

            Now go natter nonsense at each other, and stop boring ME.

          • Will do – in the meantime, have a good read of the article you posted. It’s a good read. Then come back and natter some more nonsense at me.

          • Do you know what budgets are? Predictions of future spending. As the article you linked to clearly states, they are not yet in debt but will be in the coming year.

            So, while they have been covering their income shortfalls with their savings, they are still – for the moment – debt free. At least, according to the article you referenced.

            Have you signed up for those remedial reading courses yet?

          • Actually, I’ve presented budgets.

            However, I’m aware that most people….including those in corners….have trouble understanding them. LOL

    • Do you get out of Alberta much?

      • I haven’t been to Alberta is over 6 years. But thanks for proving my point that all non-Conservative’s see the financial rape of Alberta as a good thing.

        • How did you arrive at such an idiotic conviction on the basis of my question about your travels? I made no reference to “finances” or “rape” (either of Alberta or any other alleged victim).

    • Actually, if a Carbon Tax was made revenue neutral and applied to federal income tax, Albertans would probably benefit more per capita on the receiving end than any other province.. because our higher wages mean we’re paying more taxes in the first place.

      • And it’s too bad that none of the leftist parties are proposing a revenue neutral carbon tax.

        • Too bad none of the right-wing parties are proposing it either. I’d be far more inclined to support a right-wing party that actually proposes right-wing policies.

  2. If these survey results and their interpretation are accurate, they may explain why the NDP demonstrates such collective composure regarding the Cons’ relentless and idiotic carbon tax meme in the HoC day after day. Every time a Con backbencher stands up and prattles on mindlessly about the NDP’s evil “job-killing carbon tax”, the meta-message is that the NDP are out in front of the electorate on this issue while Cons are simply denying the inevitable.

    So, let the Cons keep delivering this message, early and often. They’re appealing only to their own shrinking base and further alienating everyone else.

    • Ha! Except that Canadian’s aren’t stupid and can see clear as day that the NDP and Liberals aren’t proposing anything close to BC’s model. Neither party wants a revenue neutral carbon tax, they’re simply looking for a new revenue stream. People aren’t dumb enough (contrary to what the NDP and Liberals will tell you) to believe that the NDP would ever pass up an opportunity to soak the Canadian public out of their hard earned money.

      • If, as you say, Canadians aren’t “that stupid”, maybe you should share that assessment with the clowns in the PMO who keep putting stupid talking points into the mouths of Con backbenchers regarding a carbon tax. I mean, c’mon, who’s playing whom for stupid here? The Cons’ mindless, sophomoric, rote recitation of the same tired lie in the HoC every day makes the dippers look like paragons of mature restraint and says a lot about about how Cons actually view Canadians.

  3. Only traitors could support a carbon tax. I know this because the Harper government told me so. Probably pedophiles, too. And bad mechanics. There you go; pedophiles, bad mechanics, and traitors are the only people who could possibly support a carbon tax.

    • LOL.. the 1997 graph again.
      You know there’s a reason all of these denial graphs are based on 1997 as the starting point. It’s because when you use pretty much any other year the lie is obvious.

      • Did you know it was colder this winter than ANY SUMMER ON RECORD since records were kept! Clearly global warming is a HOAX!

      • “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” – Kevin Trenberth, climate “scientist”, 3 years ago, probably still wondering today why there is no warming happening.

        By all means, Thwim. If you’ve got the magic answer that explains why the world has stopped warming for the last 16 years, I’m sure the climate “scientists” would love you to throw ’em a frickin’ bone and explain it to them. ‘Cause they’re stumped.

        For the rest of you…do yourselves a favour. Educate yourselves. Fight back against the brainwashing and trusting the media to spoonfeed you the “correct” stories about climate change.

        Spend a few hours going through these articles. If you still believe “the science is settled” after doing so, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Winnipeg to sell you.

        • Educate is used wonderfully ironically here.

        • Here’s your Trenberth myth debunked: http://skepticalscience.com/Kevin-Trenberth-travesty-cant-account-for-the-lack-of-warming.htm

          I have no answer why the world has stopped warming because it hasn’t.

          Your link, incidentally, is a hilarious example of trying to bias results your way. You’ve done a google search that looks impressive, until you realize that all it returns is multiple links to a single SDA story, which is quoting a single Forbes story, which is looking at a survey of “geoscientists and engineers” — ie people who look at the ground, usually for resource extraction, not climatologists.. people who look at our climate.

          Hell, if you track it back to the original study being quoted, they even admit it: This paper examines the framings and identity work associated with professionals’ discursive construction of climate change science, their legitimation of themselves as experts on ‘the truth’, and their attitudes towards regulatory measures. … we contribute to the understanding of ‘defensive institutional work’ by professionals within petroleum companies, related industries, government regulators, and their professional association.

          The paper specifically *isn’t* a survey on if scientists agree or disagree with AGW as a theory, as SDA would have you believe, it’s specifically a study of those who are predisposed to be against it, and hence create “defensive institutional work”

          That’s rather like quoting a bunch of pastors explaining why they don’t think there’s any validity to evolution as your proof that most people believe in intelligent design.

        • I know I’ve replied elsewhere as well, but I really think that the inanity of that 1997 graph is worth pointing out again. They didn’t choose 1997 by accident. At the time, 1997 had the highest annual average temperature EVER RECORDED.

          So, if you start with 1997, the highest average annual temperature ever recorded at the time, you’d actually expect that the temperature fluctuations immediately after that high point might not be as dramatic as the overall 132 year trend is. And yet, of the subsequent 15 years, 12 years were nonetheless actually HOTTER than 1997 (the previous hottest ever year) and only 3 years were cooler. So, an all-time record was set in 1997, and yet 80% of the years since then have BEATEN THAT RECORD. Also, all three of the subsequent years that were cooler than 1997 were La Nina years, which scientists would expect to be cooler. However, surprisingly, FIVE of the subsequent years that were hotter than 1997 were ALSO La Nina years. Also, all three of those subsequent years that were cooler than 1997 were nonetheless hotter than any other previous year except 1995, which was the previous hottest year ever recorded before 1997 beat it (1997 held the all-time record until 1998 beat it. 1998 held the all-time record until 2005 beat it. 2005 held the all time record until 2010 beat it.).

          The only way to produce a more skewed view of the numbers would be to do a 15 year graph starting in 1998, rather than a 16 year graph starting in 1997. However, you can’t do that, because as suspicious as it is to begin a 16 year graph with the 13th hottest year ever measured, people would LAUGH OUT LOUD if presented with a 15 year graph that starts with the THIRD hottest year ever measured. No serious scientist analyzing temperature variations produces a graph where year one was the hottest year ever recorded at the time. Even when you’re trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes it’s a terrible graph, given that year one is the hottest year ever recorded at the time, and then the graph shows that record getting beaten, and then THAT record getting beaten, and then THAT record getting beaten, all in just a 16 year time-span.

    • There’s so much wrong with that analysis that I’m not sure where to start.

      Besides that fact that any random 16 year time period is pretty useless when talking about the planet’s climate, how about the fact that this particular 16 year period just happens to include all of the top 16 hottest years in the 132 year record.

    • As I’ve mentioned, it makes little sense when speaking about the Earth’s climate to look at the temperature trend over a 16 year period, particularly so when your selected period happens to include all of the top 16 hottest years in the historical record.

      Think about that for a second. If you’re going to confine yourself to the last 16 years, isn’t the fact that the last 16 years were also the hottest 16 years ever recorded more shocking than the fact that 2012 wasn’t dramatically different from 1997?

      1997 was the first year in the 132 historical record that global average temperatures were more than 0.5 degrees above the average. In the 15 years since then, that’s happened 13 more times. The two years that weren’t more than 0.5 degrees over the average in that 15 year stretch were 1999 (the 15th hottest year on record) and 2000 (the 16th hottest year on record). Both were La Nina years. 1997 wasn’t chosen as a starting point on that graph for no reason. 1996 was the last time that annual global temperatures were less than 0.4 degrees warmer than the average.

      If you don’t find that worrying, what about the fact that the last year with a global average temperature that was below the 20th century average was 1976? Or the fact that of the 62 years since 1950 there were only 9 years that were cooler than the 20th Century average, and 53 that were warmer? What about the fact that of the 13 decades of temperature records, the 3 warmest decades were 2000-2009, 1990-1999 and 1980-1989 IN THAT ORDER?

      • Doesn’t worry me at all, those findings. As long as our human adaptation skills keep improving what’s there to worry about? Oh, yeah, we need jobs to create wealth because adaptation will require money, lots of it, and if we spent it all on trying to prevent global warming (which is impossible to do anyways) we won’t have the riches needed to do the adaptation with. Now you may have something to worry about, if you get my drift.

        • “We’re too far gone now to solve the problem anyway, so let’s start focusing on adapting to what the planet’s going to be like in the future” is certainly a valid take. And you’re right, we’ll adapt. There’ll be less of us, and our lifestyles will be different, but the planet is overpopulated anyway. We certainly don’t need to save the planet though, you’re right. The planet will take us out long before we can take it out.

          My comment here is more in response to the notion that the planet isn’t warming. The argument that we’re past the tipping point and we couldn’t do anything about it now if we wanted to is a whole other (arguably more depressing) argument.

        • Sounds like the bucket defense.

          Global warming isn’t happening. We don’t need to do anything about global warming because humans can adapt to it.

    • Why exactly 16 years? No chance of cherry picking? What happened over the last 10 years, or 20 years, or 15 years, or 30 years?

    • Stop worshipping Lord Monckton. It`s icky and unseemly.

  4. BC carbon tax and carbon emission policy has become a massive fraud. All the natural gas used by the LNG facilities is going to be exempted from the carbon tax, and their carbon emissions are NOT going to be counted.

    The BC government exempts the China and Asian countries from the carbon tax and emissions limits in the mainly Asian owned LNG facilities, but burdens ordinary British Columbians with them.

    • I think you need to look up fraud in the dictionary.

  5. Shouldn’t we be polling Americans on this issue now that we’ve announced that our policy on this file is “Do whatever the White House does”?

    • That was before.. when they were doing nothing. Now that they’re threatening to do something, we’re starting to hear the opening strains of “Canada needs an independent energy policy.”

      • LOL yup….you are probably right!

      • No. I can’t accept that. There’s just NO WAY that the Tories will go back to the “Made in Canada Solution” position again so fast. I haven’t even had time to process the fact that they abandoned it yet!

  6. Hey, if the Liberals and Ndp are so convinced that Canadians want a carbon tax implemented, let them campaign on it. Let Trudeau proclaim that a carbon tax is a good thing and see where it will lead him. I’m all for that.

    • That doesn`t get people elected. Lying gets people elected. Thus, Harper`s supposed stance against a `Tax on everything`, which he will implement ten seconds after the Americans do, if that`s the route taken by Obama. Remember that Mulroney and Chretien campaigned vigorously against the GST, pre-election. Lying about revenue increases (or even revenue shifts, as a carbon tax will probably end up being) is in all politicians’ DNA.