Environment and Climate Place High with Voters, But Carbon Tax Carries ‘Political Perils’
Canadian voters are concerned about climate change and see the environment as a top issue in the upcoming federal election campaign, but aren’t keen on climate action that they’ll have to pay for personally, according to new research released last week by the Public Policy Forum’s Digital Democracy Project.
“It’s a general human phenomenon that we don’t align personal sacrifice with personal priorities. I mean, that’s why people don’t exercise, right?” said survey lead and University of Toronto political scientist Peter Loewen. “I think what’s happening here, frankly, with the carbon tax, is the government has chosen an instrument that’s very visible, in which the cost can be expressed and the cost can be exaggerated, but the cost is very understandable to citizens.”
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The data show that Canadians place environment second only to the economy as their top political issue, with 17% citing environment as their top concern. There’s also “widespread support among the electorate for reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the Toronto Star reports. “Support drops off pretty sharply, however, when voters are asked to actually do something about it.”
The more detailed results showed 74% of respondents in favour of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, 72% backing renewable energy subsidies, and 57% supporting pollution regulations—but only 36% in favour of a higher carbon tax. The report found “political perils” in fuel tax increases of 5¢ to 15¢ per litre, though it wasn’t clear from the news story whether that factored in the household rebates attached to the federal carbon tax plan.