/That unequal tax exemption

That unequal tax exemption

From Shaman’s Rock

By Jim Poling Sr.

“Politics will always break your heart,” Catherine McKenna once tweeted on the social media platform now called X.

She should know. She suffered a barrage of verbal attacks as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s environment and climate change minister, and lead minister on the contentious carbon tax. 

She resigned from cabinet and politics in 2021, saying she wanted to spend more time with her children, and working on climate change from outside politics.

Well, politics certainly broke a lot of hearts when Trudeau announced recently that heating oil will be exempt from the carbon tax. Other heating fuels such as propane and natural gas will not be.

The exemption for home heating oil applies to all Canadians. However, most Canadians do not use it to heat their homes. Statistics Canada says that in 2021 only three percent of households nationally used home heating oil.

Most of Canada’s home heating oil users live in the Atlantic provinces – the Liberal stronghold that has helped to keep the Trudeau government in power. Two in five Prince Edward Island homes, one in three Nova Scotia households and one in five Newfoundland and Labrador homes use furnace heating oil.

The heating oil tax exemption is estimated to save each homeowner using heating oil $250 a year.

So is it possible the heating oil exemption is designed to encourage Atlantic voters to keep supporting the Liberals? You bet it is.

Proof of this shameful political bribery was provided by one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers. Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings told an interviewer that if Westerners, who have complained that Atlantic voters are getting an economic benefit they are not, want similar benefits they should elect more Liberals.

More proof that politicians continue to get bolder, and dumber.

It’s not news that politicians favour their own party’s ridings, and swing ridings they believe they can win. But it’s not often that you see a politician blatantly telling voters to vote the right way or be left out of getting the goodies.

Making it worse this time was that Gudie seemed to do it with insulting contempt for western Canadians.

Trudeau has denied that the tax relief heavily favouring the Atlantic is about saving Liberal seats there, but even some of his own Liberals have scoffed at that. At least two cabinet minister are known to have opposed the exemption.

Just two days before Trudeau announced the exemption, Housing Minister Sean Fraser told the House of Commons that exemptions would make pollution free again. A month earlier, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said it would be unfair to carve out exemptions that would benefit only Atlantic Canada. 

Liberal support in Atlantic Canada has been plunging. In early 2022 polls showed Liberal support in the Atlantic was more than double the support for Conservatives. Polls this fall show a huge reversal with the Conservatives with 39 per cent and the Liberals 30 per cent.

More and more Canadians are beginning to agree that climate change is real and requires immediate action. There is less agreement on how to reduce climate change.

Putting a price on carbon changes – in other words a carbon tax – is considered by many to be a good approach. However, there is hardly universal agreement and the topic is destined to be a controversial subject for some time to come. It likely will be a key issue in provincial elections and the next national vote scheduled for 2025.

The Liberals hold a minority government kept in power by the New Democratic Party. Not much is expected to change that, but in politics there are no guarantees.

One way or another there will be a federal election sometime in the next two years. Many political commentators say the carbon tax, and the way Atlantic voters were exempted from it, will kill the Liberal government.

But there are two scenarios that the commentators say could save it. One, Trudeau will kill the tax for all Canadians, And two, Trudeau will resign as prime minister to allow a new leader to give the party a new look that will be acceptable to more Canadian voters.

We’ll just have to wait and see.