Canada’s NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has put forward a motion in the House of Commons, urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to permanently remove the GST (Federal Goods and Services Tax) from all forms of home heating. This motion aims to keep the carbon pricing debate alive and addresses concerns about Canada potentially missing its emission reductions target. The debate surrounding the carbon tax exemptions for home heating oil and rural rebate enhancements has brought renewed attention to the NDP’s proposal. However, it is important to note that the motion is non-binding and will not compel the government to take action even if it passes.
Singh’s motion has three main objectives: removing the GST from all home heating forms, ensuring easy access to eco-energy retrofits and heat pumps for low-income and middle-class Canadians, and funding these initiatives through a tax on the excess profits of major oil and gas corporations. The motion was debated in the House, with a vote expected later in the week. However, there is uncertainty about whether the Conservative caucus will reciprocate the NDP’s support for their carbon tax motion.
During the House debate, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre criticized the NDP for their “flip-flop” stance on the tax issue. Singh responded by challenging the Conservatives to support the motion and accused them of prioritizing big oil and gas profits over helping Canadians lower their costs and combat the climate crisis. The Liberals, on the other hand, have consistently advocated for carbon pricing based on its universal application, aiming to discourage planet-warming emissions by making them more costly to bear.
The tax exemption, also known as a “carve-out,” has further complicated the Liberals’ stance on carbon pricing. The concept behind the tax is to ensure that all Canadians face the same fuel prices, with lower-income individuals and those living in rural areas receiving a proportionately larger refund. However, the exemption for home heating oil has been criticized for benefiting the wealthy and favoring households with large houses over low-income households in higher density homes.
Abolishing the carbon tax is a major lobbying point for the Conservatives, who have mentioned the phrase “ax the tax” more than 100 times in the House of Commons’ transcripts. The Senate has also advanced Bill C-234, which suggests further exemptions in the carbon price for specific fuels used in farming, such as natural gas and propane.
The recent audit by the federal environment commissioner has highlighted Canada’s plan to achieve its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions targets falling short. Canada aims to reduce emissions by 40% – 45% from 2005 levels by 2030, which requires a ⅓ reduction in the country’s current emissions. However, the measures outlined in the plan are projected to achieve only a quarter of the reduction by the end of the decade. The auditor emphasized the urgency of reversing Canada’s GHG emission trajectory, calling for immediate attention to the issue.
The audit found that key policies in the plan have experienced delays, the functionality of established measures remains unclear, and the country is several million tonnes away from its emissions goal. Only a small percentage of the identified policies and programs have set timelines for implementation, and only four of them have specific targets for emissions reduction. In comparison with other G7 nations, Canada has been the least successful in cutting emissions, with only an 8% decrease compared to 2005 levels.
In response to the audit findings, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault acknowledged the gap between the target and necessary policy actions. He pledged the government’s commitment to accelerating efforts and improving transparency in its modelling to demonstrate how it intends to achieve the 2030 target. Guilbeault also hinted at positive developments in the upcoming progress report, which is due before the end of the year.
The NDP’s motion to remove the tax from home heating intensifies the debate on carbon pricing and emission reductions in Canada, highlighting the challenges the nation faces in meeting its climate goals.