Scott Moe: If Atlantic Canada Won’t Pay the Carbon Tax on Heating, Neither will Sask

REGINA – What’s good for the Atlantic goose is good for the Saskatchewan gander, when it comes to carbon tax for home heating. And if they’re not paying the carbon […]
Published on October 30, 2023

REGINA – What’s good for the Atlantic goose is good for the Saskatchewan gander, when it comes to carbon tax for home heating. And if they’re not paying the carbon tax, neither will we.

That’s the strategy Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is taking when it comes to application of the federal carbon tax. If they’re not going to pay it, neither will we. As of Jan. 1, SaskEnergy, Saskatchewan’s Crown-owned natural gas utility, will cease collecting federal carbon tax.

Late in the afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal carbon tax would be paused on home heating oil for three years, while a massive subsidy program would be enacted to pay for the adoption of heat pumps to replace heating oil furnaces. But home heating oil is hardly used at all in Western Canada anymore, but up to 40 per cent of Atlantic Canada homes still use it. And home heating oil is also a much higher emitter of greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas, which is used for nearly all of Saskatchewan’s home heating.

The political implications of that announcement were readily apparent, as Trudeau had nearly all of his 24-member strong Atlantic Liberal caucus standing behind him as he took to the podium.

Reaction has been swift and harsh, with both Moe and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith pointing out the inherit unfairness of the new federal policy.

So, after taking the weekend to put together a response, Moe released a video on social media just before noon on Monday, Oct. 30. Here is the verbatim transcript:

Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a three year exemption on the carbon tax for home heating oil. This exemption is primarily for families in Atlantic Canada, where heating oil is used in 40 per cent of their homes. In making this announcement the Prime Minister has effectively destroyed two of the myths that he’s created about the carbon tax.

First, is that the carbon tax is affordable, because most Canadians receive more back in rebates and they pay in carbon tax. If that were true, why would he need to remove it is an affordability measure on home heating oil for families in Atlantic Canada?

And the second myth is this: that it’s a tax that’s being applied fairly in all parts of the country, based on a set rate per ton of greenhouse gas emissions. Home heating oil is used primarily in one part of the country, and it has higher greenhouse gas emissions than other heat sources, like natural gas, that is used in most Saskatchewan homes. So the prime minister chose to make life more affordable for families in one part of the country, while leaving Saskatchewan families out in the cold. How is that fair to families here in our province, where affordability is also an issue? Where winters are cold? And where most of us use natural gas to stay warm?

And now a federal minister has said if people out west want a carbon tax exemption, we should elect more Liberals. This is no way to run a country.

As Premier. I cannot accept the federal government giving an affordability break to people in one part of Canada, but not here.

So today, I am calling on the federal government to offer the same carbon tax exemption to Saskatchewan families, by extending it to all forms of home heating, not just heating oil. It’s only fair to other Saskatchewan and Canadian families. Hopefully that exemption will be provided soon.

But if not, effective January the first, SaskEnergy will stop collecting and submitting the carbon tax on natural gas, effectively providing Saskatchewan residents with the very same exemption that the federal government is giving heating oil in Atlantic Canada. The federal government may say that’s illegal, and  you simply cannot choose to collect and pay your taxes. In most cases, I would agree. But it’s the federal government that has created two classes of taxpayer, by providing an exemption for heating oil, an exemption that really only applies in one part of the country, and effectively excludes Saskatchewan.

As premier, it’s my job to ensure Saskatchewan residents are treated fairly and equally with our fellow Canadians and other parts of the country, and that’s what I am doing today.

Of course, the real solution would be for the federal government to scrap the entire carbon tax on everyone and everything. But until that happens, it needs to at least be applied fairly across Canada. And that should mean no carbon tax on using natural gas to heat your home this winter in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the NDP Carla Beck had released this statement over the weekend, previous to Moe’s announcement:

Prime Minister Trudeau has singled out New Brunswick for relief but the crushing cost of living crisis doesn’t stop at the Quebec border. All Canadians have seen their costs go up. We’ve all been affected and we all deserve relief.

Here in Saskatchewan, families are having to deal not only with a federal government increasing costs but also a Sask. Party government that has hiked their PST and increased their power bills three times in the last year.

Both Justin Trudeau and Scott Moe have lost touch with the challenges of hard-working people in Saskatchewan.

This exemption is a clear recognition that Canadians are struggling with crushing inflation and higher costs but it has specifically left out relief for the people of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta. Instead of picking and choosing who gets relief based on Prime Minister Trudeau’s election map, we’re calling on the federal government to extend relief to all Canadian families.

Practical example for rural Saskatchewan

While home heating oil, also referred to as fuel oil, has dramatically declined in usage in Saskatchewan, it is still used in some instances, especially in rural areas without pipeline connections. Pipeline News editor Brian Zinchuk’s father had a heating oil furnace on the farm hear Hyas, until about nine years ago, at which point it had become unaffordable and a propane furnace was installed, reducing heating costs by well over half. But that was before any carbon taxes were implemented.

As for the impact of the elimination of the carbon tax on natural gas in Saskatchewan, here’s a real-world example of a 1,600 square foot home and small heated shop in the village of Hyas, from January, 2023, when the carbon tax was still $50 per tonne of CO2 equivalent. The home has a natural gas-fired boiler for water heat, natural gas fireplace and water heater. The shop was minimally heated with radiant natural gas heaters. This was paid by a retired pensioner on fixed income:

Total bill: $779.35

Gas usage: $529.12

Municipal surcharge: $26.46

GST on gas: $27.78

Federal carbon tax: $178.09

GST on federal carbon tax: $8.90

That same bill, based on the current rate of $65 per tonne, would see a $231.52 federal carbon tax. And in three years, when the rate will be $110 per tonne, would see a $391.80 carbon tax, for one month. GST would be on top of that. In 2030, with the federal carbon tax at $170 per tonne, the carbon tax would be $605.51, plus GST, for one month.

 

Brian Zinchuk is editor and owner of Pipeline Online, and occasional contributor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He can be reached at brian.zinchuk@pipelineonline.ca.

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