Across the country, Canadians are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis. We feel it, too. The rising prices of energy, food, housing and transportation, as well as the impacts of the warmest year ever recorded — including wildfires, floods and storms that have taken communities, livelihoods and lives — have touched virtually every household in the country.

Some federal politicians and premiers are shamelessly exploiting Canadians’ economic pain to score political points. Just look at Parliament last month, with motions introduced by the official Opposition calling for a freeze on a long-planned carbon price increase. False and misleading claims about the carbon tax worsening unaffordability do a disservice to low- and middle-income Canadians who stand to gain the most from the carbon tax through quarterly rebates and who also face the greatest risks from increasing extreme events like wildfires, floods and drought.

Ideologically driven attacks on the carbon price seek to undermine Canada’s climate plan — forcing everyday Canadians to shoulder the burden of the affordability and climate crises while multinational oil and gas companies can continue polluting without consequences.

Big Oil and its echo chamber hope Canadians forget that inflation is driven by multiple factors, including price-gouging by monopolies and industries like oil and gas. While these fossil fuel companies rake in excessive profits, they are fighting every attempt to be held accountable for their pollution and climate damage.

Canada can address the climate crisis and affordability simultaneously, but it requires all levels of government to work together constructively to introduce policies that address both challenges. These policies include:

  1. Supporting Canadians struggling with home energy costs by establishing a free housing retrofit program for low-income households and facilitating affordable access to energy efficiency measures, heat pumps and home electrification for all households.
  2. Enhancing access to affordable transportation options, including through incentives for used zero-emission vehicles and for e-bikes and by providing operating funding for public transit systems.
  3. Redistributing revenue from taxing the massive windfall profits of oil and gas companies to fund these priorities and support Canadians through the energy transition.

Climate policy cannot be sacrificed to the whims of political leaders who put the interests of wealthy fossil fuel corporations ahead of the needs of Canadians.

The federal government must ensure Canada does its part to protect Canadians from the impacts of climate change while putting money back into their pockets, which carbon pricing does.

Crucially, Canada's approach to tackling climate and affordability must not undermine the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and federal policies — including carbon pricing — must be developed and implemented in a way that respects the rights, sovereignty and decision-making authority of Indigenous nations.

At the same time, carbon pricing is only one tool in the climate policy toolbox and must be accompanied by complementary climate policies and an affordability package that prevents Canadians from having to choose between their well-being, their wallet and a safe climate.

Canadians need concrete solutions that cut household bills and protect our climate, write @carobrouillette and @lev_jf #cdnpoli

Governments across the country need to resist the cynical use of carbon pricing to distract from the real culprits of inflation.

To help Canadians through this difficult time, they must adopt policies that provide tangible and immediate support to address rising costs, while tackling the long-term dependency on fossil fuels that make us poorer and more vulnerable to energy price shocks and climate disasters.

This op-ed was inspired by a joint statement signed by over 25 Canadian organizations. Read the full statement here.

Caroline Brouillette, executive director, Climate Action Network Canada - Réseau action climat Canada. Julia Levin, associate director, national climate, Environmental Defence.

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I like your policy suggestions! But converting to heat pumps for central heating is very expensive and that will limit the number of homes that can be converted. A free or rebate program for mini-split heat pumps might be the way forward. It will stop people from buying far less efficient air conditioning units as summer temperatures continue to increase, and introduce people to heat pumps so they can see how well they provide heating during the colder months. A drop in heating and electricity bills will make people believers and prevent them from being manipulated by misinformation about heat pumps. So the more exposure the better.

Rebates for other forms of electric vehicles, like bikes, scooters and LSVs (Low Speed Vehicles) will definitely help people with lower incomes go electric. Transit subsidies are also good, but I think they should be tied to achieving electrification targets for the transit system. Rebates on new EVs shouldn't be abandoned because the automakers need to see growing adoption of these products to continue shifting their assembly lines to electric, but I like the idea of sweetening the rebate for lower cost options. This will help build up the stock of lower cost EVs that will be very popular on the used-vehicle market because of their lower operating and maintenance costs.

And yes, the axe the tax campaign is hugely popular amongst conservative zealots and that passion is spilling over into the mainstream. It also helps that conservative-biased Post Media controls most of the newspapers across Canada. A close friend of mine truly believes the carbon tax is hurting the poor and has been ending his emails lately with "axe the tax" instead of "have a great week" or "talk later." I find this more than a little disturbing when people get captured by these ideas that are totally based on false information. It's an illness in our society and I believe the fossil fuel industry is at the root of it. So tax their windfall profits and ban their advertising. Their power has to be curtailed or they will divide us and condemn our children and grandchildren to a planet heating out of control. Perhaps I'm the one sounding like a radical now, but I wouldn't be suggesting such punitive measures if Big Oil were behaving ethically and helping us solve the climate crisis. Instead, they fund radical politicians, spread disinformation, and make false promises about achieving net-zero by 2050 while in the background their supporters are vilifying net-zero policies and solutions. They're not behaving like adults and we need to give them a firm timeout.

Diverting a portion of the billions in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry into consumer and industrial electrification would really help. Last year alone it was $18.3B from federal ledgers.

On the long shot list would be electoral reform toward true electoral democracy and eliminating private money in politics.

"Ideologically driven attacks on the carbon price seek to undermine Canada’s climate plan — forcing everyday Canadians to shoulder the burden of the affordability and climate crises while multinational oil and gas companies can continue polluting without consequences. … While these fossil fuel companies rake in excessive profits, they are fighting every attempt to be held accountable for their pollution and climate damage."

Even with carbon pricing, "everyday" Canadians will continue to "shoulder the burden of the affordability and climate crises".
Even with carbon pricing, multinational oil and gas companies will "continue polluting without consequences".
Even with carbon pricing, fossil-fuel companies will continue to "rake in excessive profits".
Even with carbon pricing, no government will hold fossil-fuel companies "accountable for their pollution and climate damage".

"Stop scapegoating the carbon price"

It's naïve to hope that federal politicians and premiers will put aside their partisan differences, turn to the better angels of their nature, and stop attacking the carbon "tax". So far this merciless campaign is paying off for them in spades.

Conservative politicians are using the carbon "tax" as a cudgel to beat the Liberals over the head with. The Liberals are on the defensive. Their feckless defence of carbon pricing and failure to address affordability issues head-on presages their imminent defeat. NDP and Liberal provincial leaders are also caving in, leaving the Trudeau Liberals with no allies on the issue.
The Conservatives smell blood in the water.

Multinational oil and gas companies are not subject to the consumer carbon price.
Federal and provincial carbon pricing schemes for large industrial emitters shield them from carbon pricing. The purpose of the OBPS and its provincial counterparts is not to expose heavy emitters to the carbon price, but to shield them from it, so they can remain competitive in global markets. Large industrial emitters, including in AB's oilsands, effectively pay a fraction of consumer rates. Under Alberta's Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction Regulation (TIER) pricing regime, major O&G companies pay pennies on the dollar in carbon costs.
Federal and provincial carbon pricing systems do not impair large industrial emitters' profits — or reduce their emissions.

"Canada's biggest emitters are paying the lowest carbon tax rate" (Corporate Knights)
"Oil and gas producers pay among the lowest average carbon costs of any sector…
"There's a patchwork of OBPS policies across the country, and some provinces have implemented 'weak' or 'non-existent' systems that have let many big polluters off the hook."
"...Ottawa and most provincial governments grant heavy exemptions to a number of sectors, including O&G, chemicals, cement, steel and mining.
"But generous exemptions mean that how much of a firm's actual emissions are taxed varies widely by province, and, on average, companies end up paying for only 16% of the carbon actually produced.
"[In 2020, Suncor's] average carbon cost was roughly $2.10 per tonne, about one-14th of the full carbon price."

"The impact of a carbon price is greatly lessened by the relatively small proportion of emissions that are actually covered by the price.
"The federal OBPS and Alberta's TIER system levy the carbon price on roughly 10% of a large emitter's GHGs. At a $50 marginal price, producers pay less than $1 per tonne of CO2 equivalent on their total production." (Corporate Knights)
"Canada needs to make Big Oil pay their fair share" (Corporate Knights, March 7, 2022)

The federal government and several provinces continue to funnel billions of public dollars into the pockets of the überwealthy O&G industry. Subsidies undermine carbon pricing, making production cheaper and boosting profits.

"Climate policy cannot be sacrificed to the whims of political leaders who put the interests of wealthy fossil fuel corporations ahead of the needs of Canadians."

Looking at you, PM Trudeau. NDP leaders Rachel Notley, John Horgan, and David Eby. And, of course, the usual suspects on the opposition benches.
Selling your grandchildren down the river.