60% of Manitobans oppose feds' carbon pricing plan: poll

Manitobans support for federal carbon pricing is cooling, according to a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute.

Angus Reid Institute says support for carbon pricing is on the decline across the country

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta. Opposition to carbon pricing is strongest in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, according to a new Angus Reid Institute poll. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press )

Manitobans' support for federal carbon pricing is cooling, according to a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute.

The poll says that across the country, in every region outside of Quebec, at least half the population is opposed to Ottawa's plan to set a mandatory nationwide carbon price for provinces that don't make their own carbon-pricing schemes.

Fifty-six per cent of Canadians oppose a government plan implemented by Ottawa to price carbon, while only 44 per cent say that they are in support of it, according to the poll, which was conducted in early June.

In Manitoba, 60 per cent of people said they opposed the federal government's carbon pricing plan.

The softening support isn't surprising, said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, given that the initial support was based on the concept as opposed to the reality of carbon pricing.

"That can be related to or attributable to the fact that people don't necessarily want to pay things once they understand what the price tag will be," she said.

A poll in spring 2015, when the conversation around carbon pricing was still hypothetical, showed support for emission reduction was high — more than half of Canadians said the federal government wasn't paying enough attention to climate change and most said they'd support a carbon tax.

Another poll following the election of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals also showed support was still strong.

Manitoba holds out on national strategy

However, support declined following the rollout of details in May explaining how the federal government plans to put a "price on pollution."

The federal government directed all provinces to begin charging a price on carbon by 2018, starting at $10 per tonne. That translates to approximately 2.2 cents on a litre of regular gasoline.

The plan would ensure a carbon price of at least 11 cents a litre on gasoline in all provinces by 2022, but will include flexibility for provinces working toward their own plans.

Manitoba launched an online climate change survey in March to get feedback on where the province should set its carbon tax and what should be done with the revenue.

Premier Brian Pallister also joined Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall as a holdout in signing a national strategy on climate change late last year, although Pallister was attempting to get a better deal on health care funding.

Premier Brian Pallister joined Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall as a holdout in signing a national strategy on climate change late last year. (CBC)

The two provinces have been given until the end of December to sign on to the national climate change agreement to avoid losing out on millions of dollars to help cut emissions.

44% want province to fight federal tax

The latest Angus Reid poll showed that in Manitoba, 33 per cent of people want the province to come up with its own plan for carbon pricing, while 44 per cent would like to see the province fight the implementation of a federal carbon tax. Only 22 per cent of people who responded said they want province to do nothing and let the federal plan take effect.

Opposition to carbon pricing is strongest in Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the poll.

Kurl said that with Manitoba not far behind those provinces, it seems certain regions feel they will be more impacted than others by the carbon pricing plan. 

A carbon price that is baked into the cost of a litre of gas would disproportionately hit people in rural Manitoba and rural Saskatchewan much harder than it might hit people in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary, where there are integrated transit systems, Kurl added. 

The impact would be even greater for areas dependent on agriculture because it wouldn't just bring an extra cost to operating a personal vehicle; it would also raise the price to fill up industrial vehicles and farming equipment.

"When we get into industries that are also dependent on carbon emissions or carbon emissions go hand-in-hand with that line of industry, you can have some folks in different parts of the country saying this is going to hit me once and this is going to hit me again," she said.

'This is a warning sign' for Ottawa: Kurl

Kurl said declining support may also be connected to the political climate south of the border.

"It may also have to do with the fact that there is some anxiety around what is going to happen in this country in terms of our competitive advantage relative to the U.S. now that Donald Trump is saying that he is intending to pull out of the Paris Agreement and not honour the U.S.'s carbon commitments," she said.

While approval continues to decline, Kurl said it doesn't mean the federal carbon pricing plan is doomed. But it does send a red flag to Ottawa.

"I would suggest that this is a warning sign ... for the federal government in that they would do well to sort of figure out how they are going to work with the provinces to bring them around in order to either convince them to implement their own plans or to get on side with the federal plan," she said.

The Angus Reid Institute poll was conducted through an online survey from June 5 to 12 among a randomized sample of 5,406 Canadian adults. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, the institute said.