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Politics Nearly two-thirds of Canadians oppose provincial governments spending taxpayers’ dollars to battle federal carbon tax, poll says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to media in Bracebridge, Ont., on May 3, 2019.

Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians oppose provincial governments spending taxpayers’ dollars to battle the federal carbon tax, says a new poll released Monday as the Ontario government launched a new television ad slamming the levy.

About 64 per cent of respondents said it is unacceptable for provinces to opt out of the federal effort to combat climate change, including the carbon tax, according to a survey done by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail. As well, 64 per cent of respondents said they oppose provincial governments spending public money to fight the tax.

Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick are pursuing legal challenges to the levy, which the Liberal government imposed in those provinces that do not have a carbon pricing system of their own, as part of Ottawa’s overall effort to meet its international commitment to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is expected to unveil legislation on May 22 to rescind the provincial carbon tax adopted by the former New Democratic Party government. Mr. Kenney said he, too, will launch a legal challenge if, as promised, the federal government imposed its carbon tax in place of the provincial one that is to be cancelled.

Opinion: Who’s Doug Ford trying to please?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his ministers have launched a multipronged opposition campaign that includes the court challenge in which a decision is expected soon; frequent ministerial photo ops highlighting the cost of the levy; a move to require gas stations to post stickers detailing the cost, and paid advertising. In a spot to air Monday, an Ontario government ad says the carbon tax will cost the average family $648 a year in 2022. Like the rest of the provincial material, the Ontario ad does not include any mention of the fact that the federal legislation requires all revenue raised to be returned to the province, with 80 per cent of families expected to receive more through a rebate delivered on their income tax return than they paid out in tax.

“It’s pretty clear that Canadians don’t like the idea of provinces opting out with the exception of Canadians in the Prairie provinces,” pollster Nik Nanos said. “While the carbon tax and the rebate is not a big political winner [for the federal Liberals], people definitely don’t like using provincial tax dollars to fight the federal carbon tax.”

The survey – which has a margin of error of three percentage points – polled 1,000 Canadians by phone and online between April 25 and 28.

The poll suggests the rebate is not a big factor in changing people’s opinions on the carbon tax, with 54 per cent saying it makes no difference in their views, while 27 per cent indicating it makes them more likely to support it.

While provincial breakdowns have a larger margin of error, Mr. Nanos said it is clear people in Ontario and Quebec are less likely to support any provincial opposition to a federal carbon tax than those in the Prairie provinces who rely more heavily on fossil fuels for their economic livelihood.

Federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer – who is campaigning against the federal carbon levy – can be content to see a 60-40 split between people who support the aggressive action on climate change and those who oppose it, given that the 60-per-cent cohort will split their votes among the Liberals, New Democrats and Green Party, said Shachi Kurl, executive director of Angus Reid Institute.

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In an e-mail, Simon Jefferies, a spokesman for Premier Ford defended the publicly-financed campaign saying “From day one, Premier Doug Ford has said we would fight this job-killing tax with every tool at our disposal.”

Critics are challenging the ads as misleading. Green Party of Ontario spokesman Jason LaChappelle called the campaign a “partisan spectacle” and said the gas stickers and radio ads are backfiring.

The federal Minister for Small Business Mary Ng criticized the provincial Conservatives for wasting taxpayer dollars fighting climate action instead of fighting climate change.

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