Some Canadians are calling for an expanded carbon tax exemption for home heating fuels after the federal government announced it won’t apply carbon pricing to heating oil for three years.
The federal Liberals are also facing increased political pressure from the Conservatives and some provincial premiers to exempt fuels like propane and natural gas from the tax.
Andrew Ryeland, of Seguin, Ont., said he was “disappointed” to find out that propane — which he uses to heat his home — wasn’t included in the exemption. “Exempting one fuel over another really isn’t sending a clear signal of why this tax is on heating fuel in the first place. It’s simply a knee-jerk reaction, I think, to some pressure from some constituents basically in Atlantic Canada,” Ryeland told CBC News.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2021, only three per cent of households nationally relied on home heating oil. A large number of those households are in the Atlantic region.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, almost one in five households use home heating oil. Two in five Prince Edward Island households and one in three Nova Scotia households are heated with furnace oil. In New Brunswick, just one in about every 14 households uses home heating oil.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that the exemption is meant to give homes that use oil more time to switch to electric heat pumps. In addition to the exemption, the government announced a boost to a grant program for lower-income households in Atlantic Canada to make the switch away from fossil fuels easier.
Ryeland said he’s not opposed to switching to an electric heat pump if the government is providing help, but he has concerns about the technology’s effectiveness and how much it would increase his electric bill.
“It’s a bit of a chasing your tail situation,” he said.
Dwight Foster, a grain farmer from rural Ottawa, said he is also “frustrated” that an exemption hasn’t been offered for other fuels. Foster uses natural gas to dry his crop and said his only other option is propane.
“They don’t want us to be burning carbon but there’s no alternative. It’s not like you can plug in a battery and say … ‘Oh well, let’s dry a whole bunch of corn using a battery or something.’ That’s not an option here,” Foster said.
Tracy Ross of St. Albert, Alta. uses natural gas to heat her home. While she said she is primarily concerned about the fees gas companies charge for their services, she said the carbon tax still adds to the costs.
“It’s another drop in the bucket, right? And the bucket’s already overflowed,” she said. On Sunday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre wrote a letter to Trudeau calling on the government to remove the tax from all heating fuels.
“You must be consistent and keep the heat on and take the tax off now for all Canadians,” Poilievre told Trudeau.
Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith called on Ottawa to apply the same exemption to natural gas, used by a majority of residents in their provinces for heating.
In response, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Friday there will be no further exemptions for other fuels. He said many Canadians who use oil tend to be low-income and the price of oil has risen faster than fuels like natural gas.
“[It’s] a very different situation and we will not create new exemptions for natural gas or other fuels,” Guilbeault said.
On Monday, Moe upped the ante by declaring that SaskEnergy — the provincial Crown corporation responsible for natural gas distribution — wouldn’t collect the carbon tax starting in January if an exemption wasn’t extended to other heating fuels.
“I cannot accept the federal government giving an affordability break to people in one part of Canada, but not here,” Moe said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings said in an interview with CTV News over the weekend that the Liberal Atlantic caucus pushed for the pause on oil. She suggested that Prairie provinces should elect more Liberal MPs to get a similar exemption.
“Perhaps they need to elect more Liberals in the Prairies so that we can have that conversation as well,” Hutchings said.
Speaking in the House on Monday, Poilievre said Trudeau has turned the carbon tax into “the issue of the next election.”
“Now, Atlantic Canadians know that if they elect this prime minister, they will get a massive tax hike on their home heating oil,” he said.
Source: CBC News