Politics the Only Consistency in Carbon Tax Policy

The misplaced idea that carbon dioxide is pollution undergirds the dubious concept of the carbon tax. Never mind that there is no easy connection between CO2 and temperatures, except in […]
Published on November 4, 2023

The misplaced idea that carbon dioxide is pollution undergirds the dubious concept of the carbon tax. Never mind that there is no easy connection between CO2 and temperatures, except in the easily questioned computer models created by climate change proponents.  Nevertheless, the carbon tax policy is the signature climate change policy of the Trudeau Government. This tax has raised energy prices across the country and supercharged inflation without any impact on reducing harmless carbon dioxide emissions.

The main impact of the carbon tax is to reduce of everybody’s living standards just a bit more each year. Finally, it seems to have succeeded in doing something else: undermining Liberal support. The awkward attempt to solve this political and policy problem sent federal arguments for the carbon tax into complete contradiction last week.

On October 26 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a three-year moratorium on carbon taxes for home heating oil, a move that was good politics but curious policy.

“We’ve heard clearly from Atlantic Canadians through our amazing Atlantic MPs that since the federal pollution price came into force … certain features of that pollution price needed adjusting to work for everyone,” said Trudeau.

You see, last July Atlantic provinces had to give Ottawa worthy proposals to keep themselves out of Ottawa’s carbon pricing scheme. They failed, so their citizens have felt the pinch. Forty percent of Atlantic Canadians, but only three percent of all Canadians use fuel oil.

This reality facilitated a political solution–a national policy with mostly regional consequences for Liberal support. The problem was how to spin it.

“We are doubling down on our fight against climate change and…supporting Canadians while we fight climate change,” the PM said.

“Economists and experts around the world have long known that putting a price on carbon emissions is the best way to drive down those emissions that cause climate change, is the cheapest, most efficient and most impactful way and it’s working,” the PM insisted.

This circle can’t be squared, except politically. The fuel oil announcement was made hours before Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre held his scheduled “Axe the Tax” rally against carbon taxes in Windsor, N.S., the riding of Liberal Atlantic Caucus chair Kody Blois.

Put together, this is a national but regional policy to adjust a carbon tax that works but does not work. It’s doubtful that taxes or grants will change the weather, of course, but fuel oil was unworthy of an exemption.

The heat output per gallon of fuel oil is 138,690 British Thermal Units and almost equal to that of natural gas (139,050 BTU). However, natural gas only produces 117 lbs of CO2 per million BTU, whereas distillate fuel oil produces more than 160 lbs. The worst “polluters” just got a break.

Meanwhile, residents west of Quebec, where natural gas use ranges from 49 to 77 per cent, will pay carbon taxes, as they always have–and more so as they increase every April. It’s moves like this that have allowed a federal government to maintain power that hasn’t won the popular vote since 2015.

Poilievre’s plan to end the carbon tax is a winner for policy sanity.


Lee Harding is a Research Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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