New Ontario polls finds majority think affordability more important than climate action

Click to play video: 'Carbon tax increase fuels affordability politics'
Carbon tax increase fuels affordability politics
RELATED: The federal carbon tax has increased by 23 per cent, meaning burning fossil fuels will cost most Canadians more money, but they'll also get more money in rebates. David Akin explains why hundreds of economists support the hike; how politicians from all sides are criticizing the increase; how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is responding; and why the Liberals' poor communication is contributing to the criticism – Apr 1, 2024

A majority of Ontarians rank the cost of living as a more pressing concern higher than protecting the environment, according to a new poll. It also suggests that a plurality of residents are willing to dump the Trudeau government’s carbon emission pricing regime even if it means giving up the carbon rebate.

The poll comes amid renewed calls for an emergency televised meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the country’s premiers over an annual increase to the federal carbon price.

On April 1, it rose from $65 per tonne to $80 per tonne — an increase of just over three cents per litre of gas — triggering a wave of criticism from political opponents, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

A poll conducted by Liaison Strategies for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada found 49 per cent of those asked would abolish the carbon price immediately, while 41 per cent would scrap the carbon price even if it meant sacrificing their federal carbon rebate.

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The poll also found a narrow majority — 54 per cent — thought that affordability and the cost of living are more important than protecting the environment.

The polling results speak to the increasing opposition to the so-called carbon tax which has largely landed Progressive Conservative, Liberal and NDP politicians on the same page.

The phrase “carbon tax” has been mentioned in the Ontario Legislature more than 2,200 times since the Ford government was re-elected in June 2022, mainly by the governing party which has attempted to link the price to every aspect of affordability in the province.

Premier Doug Ford has even predicted electoral oblivion for the federal Liberals if they stick with the policy.

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“If they don’t start putting money back in people’s pockets instead of filling their pockets, guess what? They’re going to get annihilated, as I’ve said before, they’re done. They’re done like dinner,” Ford said at an event in mid-March.

The NDP joined the Progressive Conservative-led government in calling on the Prime Minister to stop further increases in the price, while Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie has ruled out consumer carbon pricing in her party’s climate change policies.

Supporters of carbon pricing, including Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, point out that abolishing the carbon tax would also mean an end to quarterly carbon rebates sent to households in Ontario.

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On Friday, Prime Minister Trudeau refused to back down saying his carbon price was a “measure on affordability” and “a measure to fight climate change” simultaneously.

“The way we price carbon actually puts more money in the pockets of eight out of 10 families — like families in Ontario where the cost of living is high and where the need to fight climate change is clear with every wildfire, with every flood, with every drought,” he said.

The eight of 10 families statistic referenced by Trudeau comes from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

“We put a price on pollution and then we give that money back to Canadians.”

The poll also showed a disparity of opinion on the carbon price across the province, with more urban voters more likely to support the measure.

In the GTA-905 region, it’s a tight three-point split between keeping and abolishing the price on carbon, with 41 per cent in favour of scrapping it and 38 per cent keen to keep it. In Toronto, 41 per cent of people want to keep the price, while 39 per cent want it abolished.

“Opposition is highest in Northern Ontario where 57% would scrap the carbon tax even after being told about the rebate,” Liason Strategies principal David Valentin said.

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The poll recorded a comfortable lead for Progressive Conservatives with 40 per cent support, followed by the Ontario Liberals on 30 per cent.

Liaison Strategies had the Ontario NDP on 18 per cent.

Ford is one of several premiers calling for a meeting with Trudeau to discuss alternatives to carbon pricing.

Most recently, Conservative Party Leader Piere Polievre tabled a motion to push Trudeau to take part in an emergency, televised meeting with the country’s premiers to discuss the tax.

Methodology: The poll was conducted from April 6 to April 7, 2024, using interactive voice response technology. It surveyed surveyed 1,280 Ontario voters. The margin of error for the poll is +/- 2.74%, 19 times out of 20.

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