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A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018.

Jason Franson/The Canadian Press

A narrow majority of Canadians are open to paying more to help Canada cut its greenhouse gas emissions, according to a question in a new poll from Nanos Research.

For the first time in more than a decade, all of the major parties are proposing some form of a price on carbon as part of their election platform. But the level of the carbon price, how it is rebated back to Canadians and the stringency of emissions-reduction targets vary widely between the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Green Party.

The poll question, part of a Nanos survey on several election issues, suggests that 27 per cent of Canadians are willing to pay more in areas such as taxes and the price of gas to help the country hit its emissions targets. A further 27 per cent said they were somewhat willing to pay more. However, 30 per cent said they were not willing to pay more, 14 per cent said they were somewhat unwilling and 2 per cent said they were unsure.

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The poll was conducted by Nanos Research for The Globe and Mail and CTV.

The divided result signals that political parties should be cautious as they stake their ground on climate policies, said Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos.

“A slim majority are willing to pay to one extent or another, but about four in 10 would resist the idea of paying more for energy prices to meet emission targets,” Mr. Nanos said. “Embarking down either path is not without political risk since the electorate is divided.”

The overall poll consisted of a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,029 Canadians. The results were gathered between Aug. 28 and 30. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

On climate, the poll question was: “The parties have outlined their climate change strategies and policies. Many of these policies will likely result in higher prices for energy and other products in the short to medium term. Are you willing, somewhat willing, somewhat not willing, or not willing to pay more in taxes or more for things like the price of gas to help achieve Canada’s emission reduction targets on the environment?”

Prior to the pandemic and during the 2019 federal election, climate change was a top issue for many voters and was set to dominate the political agenda. It was the top unprompted national issue of concern in polls, Mr. Nanos said.

That was derailed by the pandemic, but the issue appears to be gaining more momentum, and over the summer, the appetite for aggressive policies to combat climate change rose, Mr. Nanos said.

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Research done for the University of Ottawa Positive Energy Initiative tracked that increase. In June, 2020, about 45 per cent of Canadians said it was the best time to be ambitious in addressing climate change, even if there are costs to the economy, Mr. Nanos said.

More than a year later, the August tracking shows that 64 per cent believe now is the best time to be ambitious on climate. The poll consisted of a hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,002 Canadians. The results were gathered between July 30 and Aug. 2. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Nanos noted that the change coincides with extreme weather events, including wildfires in the West.

Last month, a United Nations report found that climate change is proceeding at a faster pace and producing widespread effects that are more definitively tied to human influence than ever before. The extreme heat waves, severe floods and catastrophic fires that people are already seeing will become more frequent and intense as the global temperature rises, the report found.

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