Since its introduction in 2018, the federal government’s tax on carbon has been controversial. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added to that controversy by exempting homes that heat with heating (fuel) oil for the next three years from the carbon tax. That exemption has led to calls for more exemptions for home heating as the country continues to face high inflationary costs and enters the winter season. Trudeau resisted adding further exemptions, drawing a rhetorical line in the sand and doubling-down on the need for Canadians to pay more when many cannot afford to.
Heating Oil is the dirtiest of home heating sources. Atlantic Canada has the highest use of fuel oil in the country. Trudeau’s justification is that people who use heating oil are among the poorest Canadians, who cannot afford to upgrade to other heating sources like heat pumps or Natural Gas.
This may be news to the federal government: many Canadians who heat with other sources are having problems paying their bills too. It should not be a surprise that after two years of record inflation, and now with higher interest rates to combat that inflation, many Canadians are dealing with an affordability crisis. Higher mortgage payments, heating costs, electricity costs, insurance costs, gasoline costs, and food costs – everything is more expensive. The carbon tax has also increased. In fact, the federal carbon tax has doubled since 2020 and is set to increase every year on April 1. While there is a Climate Incentive Rebate that is paid to some families – which in theory is to make the Carbon Tax “revenue neutral” – in practice it does not cover much more than a tank of gas.
There is no denying that climate change exists, and that the past 250 years of industrial output has detrimentally harmed our environment. We all see the effects of climate change, much of which comes in the form of extreme weather changes. Everyone has a responsibility to improve the environment, but is using an ever-increasing consumption tax to tax overtaxed Canadians already struggling to afford the necessities the way to do it? Furthermore, if the government is going to offer an exemption to its tax scheme, why are they playing one group of Canadians against another? To shore up support in Atlantic Canada where recent polls have seen the Liberal Fortress erode?
Should there be a Carbon Tax exemption for heating oil users in Canada? Yes. Should that exemption apply to all home heating fuel sources? Also yes. If a government is going to provide a tax exemption for something as broad-based as how one chooses to heat a home, that exemption should apply to all – including those who heat with electricity. Playing political games to shore up a voting base should not be done at everyone’s expense. An exemption for one should be an exemption for all.