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Nearly half of Canadians think carbon tax is ineffective at fighting climate change: Nanos

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A new survey has found that Canadians are feeling slightly more confident in the carbon tax’s effectiveness at combatting climate change than they were a few months ago—but uncertainty is still high.

Nanos Research surveyed more than 1,000 Canadians between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 to gain a picture of their current views on the carbon tax.

Nearly half of Canadians surveyed, the poll found, still believe the carbon tax is ineffective at combatting climate change, but this number has gone down since July, while the percentage of those who say it is effective has gone up in the same time period.

Around 46 per cent said the carbon tax was ineffective at combatting climate change, compared to the 53 per cent who selected that response in a July poll.

The percentage who said they believed it was effective at combatting climate change has also increased slightly since the summer, with 21 per cent of respondents in this new survey stating that the carbon tax is effective, a six per cent increase from July.

The survey, which was commissioned by CTV News, was conducted over telephone and online and consisted of a nationally representative group of Canadians.

It is the latest in a series of Nanos surveys, which have been tracking the changing perception of the carbon tax over the years.

The carbon tax, which places a price on each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions with the aim of cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, has long played a key role in the federal government’s platform. But the recent decision to carve out a temporary exemption for those using heating oil for their homes—a decision which largely benefits those living in Atlantic Canada—has opened up increased scrutiny around the policy as a whole.

The federal government has stuck by the policy, even in the face of a filibuster spurred by the Conservatives, which finally ended Friday after nearly 30 hours of non-stop voting.

“No, we’re not axing the tax,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told CTV News mid-Friday morning in reference to a chant Conservative MPs has been rallying behind.

Protecting the environment in the long-term and addressing the pressing climate crisis is still a priority for Canadians over short-term cost-cutting measures in regards to the carbon tax, but the divide is getting closer, survey results suggest.

Around 52 per cent of those surveyed in this new poll preferred long-term environmental protection, while 40 per cent preferred keeping costs down first. In Nov. 2018, according to Nanos, their polling found that 67 per cent of Canadians surveyed were thinking of the environment first.

Canadians aged 55 and older were more likely to want to protect the environment over receiving short-term savings than those aged 18-34. Women were more likely to say the environment was their priority (54.5 per cent) over cost cutting (35 per cent), compared to men. Half of men chose long-term environmental protection, while 45.9 per cent chose cost cutting.

Quebec residents were the most likely to say long-term environmental protection was their priority when asked about a carbon tax, with 59 per cent saying it was more important to them than keeping costs down. Residents from the Prairies were least likely to prioritize environmental protection, at 40.8 per cent—a statistic that could be connected to the fact that those in the Prairies were also the least likely to believe the carbon tax was effective.

QUEBEC MOST CONFIDENT IN CARBON TAX EFFECTIVENESS, PRAIRIES MOST SCEPTICAL

Respondents were asked to rate the effectiveness of the carbon tax at combatting climate change on a scale from one to 10, with 0-3 being “not effective,” 4-6 being “average,” and 7-10 being “effective.”

Residents in Quebec gave the carbon tax the highest average score, at 4.4. out of 10. Those living in the Prairies scored the carbon tax the lowest, with the carbon tax receiving a score of 2.6 out of 10 among this group.

The federal carbon tax doesn't apply in Quebec, due to the province's existing cap-and-trade system, which was established in 2013.

Ontario residents scored the carbon tax 3.8 out of 10 on average, while residents from the Atlantic provinces and B.C. gave it an average score of 3.5 and 3.4 out of 10 respectively.

Half of Canadians surveyed said that a carbon tax would make them more likely to use more energy efficient, environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels, with one in 10 Canadians saying they were much more likely to use green-friendly alternatives.

This is a drop in numbers since Oct. 2018, according to Nanos, when 66 per cent of Canadians said a carbon tax would make them more likely to use green alternatives.

The number of Canadians who said the carbon tax was effective or ineffective at encouraging people to use less fuel remained relatively consistent with past surveys in these new results, according to the Nanos report.

Around 61 per cent of those surveyed found the carbon tax at least somewhat ineffective at encouraging people to use less fuel, while 36 per cent believe it is at least somewhat effective at that goal.

Similarly to the provincial breakdown in the overall score of the carbon tax’s effectiveness, residents of Quebec were the most likely to say the carbon tax was at least somewhat effective in encouraging less fuel use, at 38.7 per cent, while residents of the Prairies were the least likely, at 28.7 per cent.

Studies centred around other countries that have adopted carbon taxes have found them to be effective at reducing emissions, with that effectiveness ranging depending on the program and country, and British Columbia’s carbon tax, first implemented in 2008, has been found to have decreased greenhouse gas emissions by 5-15 per cent. But data has been scarce on what impact Canada’s federal carbon tax has had on its overall emissions.

On Thursday, the government finally announced its framework to cap oil and gas sector emissions at 35 to 38 per cent below 2019 levels by 2030 through a national cap-and-trade system that will take effect in 2026.

The government has been criticized for the delay; the framework comes two years after the Liberals first announced they planned to implement an emissions cap, and the draft regulations won’t be released until next spring.

METHODOLOGY

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land-and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,069 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between November 30th and December 2nd, 2023 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The sample included both land-and cell-lines across Canada. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada.

Individuals randomly called using random digit dialling with a maximum of five call backs.

The margin of error for this survey is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

This study was commissioned by CTV News and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.

Note: Charts may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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