2 out of 3 Canadians agree provinces should have final say on carbon tax, survey suggests

With Saskatchewan and Ontario’s premiers bucking under a federal carbon pricing plan, new research suggests that a majority of Canadians believe that provinces should indeed have the final say.

Premier Scott Moe has strong backing for Saskatchewan's fight, according to new Angus Reid Institute poll

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, left, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford walk to a reception as the Canadian premiers meet in St. Andrews, N.B., in July. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

With Saskatchewan and Ontario's premiers bucking under a federal carbon pricing plan, new research suggests that a majority of Canadians believe that provinces should indeed have the final say on carbon pricing.

A federal carbon pricing plan is to come into effect next January, and it would apply to provinces that the federal government doesn't believe have their own adequate plans.

But two in three Canadians, at 64 per cent, believe it should be the provinces that decide how to reduce emissions, not Ottawa, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll, conducted between July 18 to 23. The remaining 36 per cent of adults say the federal government should have the power to impose its own plan, if necessary.

Support for the provinces having their own say on carbon pricing is highest in Saskatchewan. (Angus Reid Institute)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have both challenged the federal government's decision to impose carbon pricing, but the public seems to perceive the decisions differently, according to the poll.

Support is strong for Moe's decision, as Moe argues Saskatchewan does have its own plan in place. Seven in 10 Canadians, at 72 per cent, agree with his stance, while support is even higher in Saskatchewan, with 88 per cent agreeing with his decision-making.

Across the country, support is high for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe's decision to challenge the federal carbon tax in court. (Angus Reid Institute)

By contrast, half of Canadians, at 51 per cent, and half of Ontarians, at 55 per cent, agree with Ford's decision to stop that province's cap and trade program, without replacing it with some other form of carbon pricing. 

Support for Ontario Premier Doug Ford's decision to end the cap and trade system sits at about 55 per cent in his home province. (Angus Reid Institute)

In the spring of 2015, a federal carbon pricing program might have "looked like a good bet" for then Prime Minister-hopeful Justin Trudeau to suggest as a campaign promise, noted the poll. The majority of Canadians, at 56 per cent, supported such a plan. But that needle of support has since dropped to 45 per cent, according to Angus Reid Institute.

Support for carbon pricing varies with age, according to the numbers. Canadians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to support the federal government's plan, with six in 10 of these younger adults agreeing, while opposition to the plan increases with people's age. 

Support for carbon pricing is highest among those aged 18 to 34. (Angus Reid Institute)

Just over half of Canadians, or 56 per cent, say global warming is real, and caused by humans, while one in five say it is real, but caused by natural processes. The rest are uncertain (11 per cent), or flat out disagree (14 per cent).

The institute's poll says the conversation around carbon pricing is now seeing a "renewed level of urgency and conflict," with the provinces coming up on Ottawa's Sept. 1 deadline to submit its plans. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec all have plans announced or in place, while the Atlantic provinces have stated they will release plans before the deadline. 

Support for the carbon pricing is below 50 per cent, even among former Liberal voters. (Angus Reid Institute)

Alberta's support has a question mark hovering over it, with that province coming up on a 2019 provincial election, and with United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney also a member of the anti-carbon pricing club.

In what could spell trouble for their federal Liberals, nearly half their own past voters, at 48 per cent, say the federal government should step back and let the provinces make their own decisions on this issue.   

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey among a representative randomized sample of 1,500 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding, according to the Institute.


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