While the federal government places a respectable third among G7 countries for its approach to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, it’s still out of step with the large majority of Canadians who don’t want to see their tax dollars used to support oil and gas companies, according to public opinion results released this morning by five national and international environmental organizations.
“The polling data shows Canadians want an end to fossil fuel subsidies in virtually every part of the country and across gender, age, region, education, and income,” states a release from Environmental Defence, Climate Action Network, Équiterre, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and Oil Change International. The survey by Ekos Research Associates showed “that Canadians want transparency on how much public money is supporting fossil fuel companies; that Canadians understand the environmental and climate benefits of ending these subsidies; and that they are more likely to support political parties that promise to phase them out.”
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The polling was conducted in March, before Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced  the country’s latest, greatest fossil subsidy last week—C$4.5 billion to buy out the Kinder Morgan pipeline, amid estimates  of $15 to $20 billion to actually finish the project.
Based on the Ekos results, the five organizations report that:
- Two-thirds of Canadians disagree with oil and gas subsidies, and 41% strongly disagree.
- The majority still oppose subsidies if they think public money given to fossil companies will create jobs and economic growth. Only three in 10 respondents think an end to fossil subsidies would hurt the economy.
- Six in 10 Canadians “agree that oil and gas companies should not receive government assistance, on the basis that these subsidies exacerbate pollution and contribute to climate change.”
- An overwhelming 96% agree that governments should  disclose  the amount fossils receive in subsidies.
- 58% “would be more likely to support a political party that promises to eliminate subsidies to oil and gas companies.”
- The majority of respondents cited the need for more ambitious climate action as the reason to end fossil subsidies, while 21% wanted to see the money freed up for other priorities  like health care, education, and housing.
“Canada has a longstanding commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, which have been called ‘the world’s dumbest policy’,” Patrick DeRochie, Climate and Energy Program Manager at Environmental Defence, said in the release. “Now we have data showing that ending these subsidies is overwhelmingly popular. Rather than buying a tar sands pipeline, now is the time to turn words into action and lay out a roadmap to get rid of these handouts to climate polluters.”
“Canadians clearly want an end to subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, as promised by the federal government, but the Kinder Morgan bailout is yet another handout that takes us in the wrong direction,” agreed Alex Doukas, Program Director at Oil Change International.
“The results are crystal clear. Canadians, and in particular Quebecers, do not want their tax dollars financing climate polluters,” said Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations at Équiterre. “If Canada is serious about climate action, billions of dollars in handouts to oil and gas companies is contradictory. It’s like telling people to stop smoking, and then giving money to cigarette producers.”
“This week’s G7 is Canada’s time to shine on the international stage,” said Catherine Abreu, Executive Director of Climate Action Network-Canada. “There’s clear public support for ending public subsidies for oil and gas companies. At Charlevoix, we need to see Canada announce its peer review of fossil fuel subsidies and lead its G7 partners in delivering a roadmap to phase out these subsidies by 2025.”
In a separate scorecard released by IISD, Oil Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Overseas Development Institute, Canada scored third—behind France and Germany, but ahead of the UK, Italy, Japan, and the United States—in its progress on eliminating fossil subsidies. With 54 points out of a possible 100, the country placed first for ending support for coal mining and for fossil fuel-based power, thanks largely to provinces that rely mostly on renewable electricity—but sixth for transparency, and dead last for ending support for oil and gas production.
“Despite Canada’s commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement, the government—like all G7 governments—continues to provide billions in support to oil, gas, and coal, both domestically and internationally, through fiscal support and public financing mechanisms,” the scorecard states.
Across the board, G7 countries delivered at least $100 billion per year to oil gas, and coal in 2015 and 2016, “both at home and abroad and in more than 50 countries around the world,” the scorecard adds. “This included $81 billion in fiscal support through direct spending and tax breaks, and $20 billion in public finance.”