A new poll suggests Canadians are broadly in favour of the federal government's decision to exempt home heating oil from its price on carbon, and would welcome expanding the relief to all forms of home heating fuel.

The governing Liberals announced last month a three-year reprieve from the carbon price for property owners who depend on heating oil, along with funding to help people make the switch to electric heat pumps.

The abrupt about-face from a government that considers tackling climate change a cornerstone priority triggered an uproar in Ottawa over a controversial measure that has proven politically useful on both sides of the aisle.

Climate activists denounced the reprieve as a short-sighted move that risks doing permanent damage to the Liberal government's efforts to limit the impact of climate change.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, meanwhile, has vowed he would do away with the carbon price altogether as prime minister, rallying supporters at events across the country with cries of "axe the tax."

Just over half of respondents to the online Leger survey said they knew about the carve-out, while 48 per cent said they were not aware of it.

Despite that, 63 per cent said they support the decision and only 37 per cent said they were opposed to it. Support was highest among those under age 44.

The poll also suggests most people would be happy to see all forms of home heating fuel exempted: 70 per cent of respondents said they support an expansion, although that dropped to 58 per cent among people under 25.

More than 1.2 million Canadian homes use home heating oil, according to Natural Resources Canada, and about a quarter of those are in Atlantic Canada. Almost a third of Atlantic Canadian homes rely on heating oil, meaning the policy has a disproportionate impact in that region.

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The Liberals have been accused by their critics of trying to save votes in Atlantic Canada.

Some 78 per cent of Atlantic Canadians who took part in the survey said they were happy about the move. Opposition was highest in Quebec, where 43 per cent of respondents said they disagreed.

Albertans were most likely to support an expansion to all home heating fuel, at 78 per cent, while 40 per cent of Quebec respondents felt the opposite.

Asked about their grasp of the carbon pricing mechanism overall, about 44 per cent expressed a somewhat good or very good understanding, while 56 per cent said they understand it poorly or not at all.

Men were more likely to say they understand the carbon price than women.

Leger surveyed 1,531 people online, asking a range of questions about the carbon price. Online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2023.

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