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Most Canadians oppose provinces taking Ottawa to court over carbon tax, poll suggests

The federal government has a solid base of support, though with clear pockets of opposition, as it moves to impose a carbon pricing plan in provinces that refuse to adopt their own system, a new poll indicates.

At the same time, Canadians appear to have misgivings about a move by governments in Saskatchewan and Ontario to launch a legal challenge to the federal carbon-tax plan, the poll of 1,000 people by Nanos Research suggests.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is engaged in a political battle over climate policy and carbon taxes with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who are allied with federal and Alberta conservative politicians.

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Related: The carbon-tax debate is filled with dishonesty

Mr. Ford has allocated $30-million to have Ontario join Saskatchewan in the court battle seeking a declaration that Ottawa is exceeding its jurisdiction by imposing a carbon tax in their provinces. New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant and Manitoba’s Brian Pallister have suggested the court action is unlikely to succeed.

“Canadians generally don’t want provinces to go to court to fight the federal government in terms of stopping a federal carbon tax,” pollster Nik Nanos said. “I think it’s one of those things where there’s a default view where people say, ‘Are we going to have a patchwork environmental regime in Canada or are we going to have a carbon strategy of some sort?’"

On the question of taking Ottawa to court, 58 per cent either strongly or somewhat opposed the action, Some 60 per cent of Ontarians voice opposition, according to the Nanos poll, which has a higher margin of error for provincial breakdowns due to smaller sample size.

“When we look at the carbon tax, it’s not as if it’s a complete slam dunk. The reality is a third of Canadians are mushy on this − either somewhat support or somewhat oppose it,” Mr. Nanos said.

The poll − conducted by telephone and online − was commissioned by The Globe and Mail, and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Some 60 per cent of respondents supported the need for a carbon tax to encourage Canadians to consume less fossil fuels, with 41 per cent strongly endorsing that policy. Support ranged from 72 per cent in Quebec to just 41 per cent on the Prairies, where residents are more reliant on fossil fuels for jobs and to heat their homes and power their electricity consumption. In Ontario, 63 per cent of respondents either strongly or somewhat supported the carbon tax.

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The Ontario government is now debating a bill that will kill the cap-and-trade program initiated by former premier Kathleen Wynne, which set a limit on emissions from fuel marketers and industrial polluters and included a market for allowances aimed at keeping overall costs down.

As a result, the federal Liberal government will impose its carbon tax, starting at $20 a tonne in January and rising to $50 a tonne − or 11.6 cents per litre of gasoline − in 2022.

Ottawa recently eased its proposed tax on fossil-fuel emissions. The net effect of the changes means that industries will receive credits on emissions up to 80 per cent of the industry average, and up to 90 per cent for industries most at risk of foreign competition. Under the original plan, the figure was 70 per cent for all industries.

Provincial Environment Minister Rod Phillips said this week that the Ford government will release a plan with a series of measures, including regulations, to reduce emissions. He would not commit to set a target consistent with Canada’s pledge under the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

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