Public Reaction to the Carbon Tax Policy Shift: Few gains for Liberals but widespread desire for extension to other home heating fuels

From November 9 to 12, 2023, Abacus Data conducted a national survey of 2,00 adults exploring several topics related to Canadian politics and current events as part of our regular national omnibus surveys.

In this report, we share new data on:

  • Awareness and reaction to the federal government announcement on the carbon tax carve out
  • Preference for extending the exemption for all home heating fuel
  • The impact of the carbon tax carve out on the propensity to vote Liberal

6 in 10 Canadians are aware of carbon tax carve out for home heating oil

As of Sunday November 12, about 6 in 10 Canadians are aware the federal government announced it was going to exempt home heating oil from the carbon tax or price, double the rebate people receive for the carbon tax for those living in rural and small towns, and increase the incentive for households to switch to heat pumps.

Awareness was highest in Atlantic Canada (73%) and lower in Quebec (34%).

Over 6 in 10 aware of the carbon tax carve out think it’s a good idea

Overall, 65% of those aware of the carbon tax carve and associated policy changes think it is a good idea. 35% think it is a bad idea.

82% of Atlantic Canadians and 65% of those in Ontario, the Prairies, and BC think it’s a good idea. A slight majority in Quebec (54%) feel the same way.

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Exempt other home heating fuels?

In the survey, Canadians are told provincial premiers, the federal Conservative Party and the federal NDP have called on the federal government to exempt all forms of home heating from the carbon tax and the Prime Minister has said there will be no other exemptions made.

When asked their preference, 72% think other home heating fuels should be exempt to help people deal with the rising cost of living while 28% think no other fuels should be exempt because the exemption is meant to help people transition from heating oil which is much more polluting than other forms of home heating.

Among those aware of the announcement, the split is 76%/24%. 72% in Atlantic Canada and 76% in Ontario, the Prairies, and BC think the exemption should be extending to other futures. 59% in Quebec feel the same way.

A clear majority of current Liberal, NDP, Conservative and BQ supporters feel the same way.

Have the Liberals benefitted from the policy shift on the carbon price?

Overall, more Canadians say they are less likely to vote Liberal as a result of the policy shift than those who say they are more likely to vote Liberal (30% vs. 13%). 56% say the policy shift will have no impact on their vote.

In Atlantic Canada, 21% are more likely to vote Liberal vs. 22% who are less likely. In Ontario, the Prairies, and BC, 35% say they are less likely to vote Liberal while 11% are more likely.

But among key groups the Liberals need to engage and win over if they hope to be competitive again, the net impact of the policy shift is positive.

  • Among those open to voting Liberal today, 24% say they are more likely to vote Liberal while 12% are less likely to.
  • Among past Liberal voters, 26% say they are more likely to vote Liberal while 14% are less likely to vote Liberal.
  • Among current Conservative and NDP supporters, 7% say they are more likely to vote Liberal as a result of the policy shift.

The Upshot

According to Abacus Data Chair & CEO David Coletto: “Our poll results suggest a mixed bag for the Liberal government. Firstly, the awareness level of this policy is significant, with 6 in 10 Canadians knowing about the exemption of home heating oil from the carbon tax. This figure indicates a reasonable degree of public engagement with government policies, particularly in Atlantic Canada, where awareness is even higher. However, the varying levels of awareness across regions, notably lower in Quebec, suggest a geographical disparity in how information is disseminated or received.

The public’s reaction to the carbon tax carve-out is predominantly positive, with 65% of those aware of the policy considering it a good idea. This broad support extends across several provinces and across political lines, indicating that the policy resonates well with a diverse demographic.

However, this positive reception does not necessarily translate into major political gains for the Liberals. Despite the approval of the policy, there is a significant desire (72%) among Canadians for the exemption to be extended to all home heating fuels. This gap between public expectation and government action may limit the political capital the Liberals can gain from this policy.

The poll indicates that the carbon tax carve-out may attract some former Liberal and current Conservative and NDP supporters to the party but not in sufficient numbers to fundamentally change Liberal support. And given the widespread desire for the policy to be extended to home heating fuels, there’s still a lot of political risk to come in how the government manages this issues going forward.”

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The survey was conducted with 2,000 Canadian adults from November 9 to 12, 2023. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.3%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:


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