Skip to content

‘Mistake’ to play affordability off against climate change, says B.C. premier

Eby calls Ottawa’s handling of carbon tax exemption ‘startling’ and ‘disturbing’
Premier David Eby, seen here in Nova Scotia, warns against playing affordability off against climate change. During a meeting with federal and territorial leaders in Nova Scotia he held up an “I Heart Heat Pumps” T-shirt during interviews. (Screencap)

Premier David Eby is warning against playing affordability off against fighting climate change.

“The issue of affordability is getting tied into the need for us to take action on carbon pollution,” Eby said Thursday (Nov. 9). “We just need to take action on climate change. It’s not debatable. So to tie that in with affordability, which every government knows we need to support people right now, is a mistake because if we want to be a prosperous jurisdiction in the future, we are going to have to reduce carbon pollution and be a leader in this space now.”

Eby added his government will take continue to push for affordability measures, while dealing with climate change.

He made these comments after the federal Liberal government exempted home-heating oil from the federal carbon tax for three years. The move — which Eby describes as “very startling” and “disturbing” — largely benefits Atlantic Canada and appears among several developments raising questions about the commitment of governments across Canada to fight climate change.

“I think it is a very serious error to protect home heating oil into the future with a discount when less polluting ways of heating your home, including heat pumps that are zero emission in B.C. and are cheaper, are available,” Eby said.

Eby made that point several times during his meeting with federal and territorial leaders in Nova Scotia, even wearing an “I Heart Heat Pumps” T-shirt during interviews. He also deepened relations with Newfoundland and Labrador around developing hydrogen as a future energy system, noting both provinces complement rather than compete against each other.

But Eby also acknowledged difficulties in getting through to his counterparts, such as Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

“The challenge is that sometimes that ideology prevents meaningful movement,” Eby said. He said he didn’t spend a lot of time trying to talk premiers out of the positions they have already taken on the carbon tax.

“Instead, I tried to focus on the areas that we had in common: a shared concern on affordability, a shared concern about provinces being treated fairly … Premier Smith and I, we disagree whether heat pumps even work, so that’s a challenge for having a meaningful discussion about how we reduce carbon pollution in Canada.”

RELATED: B.C. eyes green hydrogen economy with cross-country partnership

RELATED: Canada’s first renewable diesel and hydrogen complex to open in Prince George

RELATED: $7B B.C. energy hub would tap into controversial natural gas pipeline

Opposition to carbon taxation is also mounting in British Columbia.

The Conservative Party of BC is promising to eliminate the provincial carbon tax and BC United last month proposed that it would immediately remove the provincial carbon tax from all home heating fuels including heating oil and natural gas and axe the provincial fuel tax if it were to form government next year. A BC United government would also cancel scheduled hikes in the carbon tax and remove it from on-farm fuel use.

The proposed measures would save B.C. taxpayers about $4.72 billion over three years, but create a corresponding shortfall adding up to about two per cent in government revenue.

Falcon said his government would easily find the money to cover the shortfalls by eliminating what he considers unnecessary bureaucracy and other NDP policies, adding cuts would not impact front-line staff in schools and hospitals. His government would also introduce robust environmental policies that would help retain B.C.’s status as an environmental leader.

Falcon also promised to eliminate the carbon tax altogether if the federal Conservatives — who have promised to eliminate the federal carbon tax — were to assume power in Ottawa in 2025.

RELATED: BC United promises to remove provincial taxes for cars and home heating

Eby, not surprisingly, questioned these proposals, including the specific promise to get rid of the carbon tax entirely.

“I think it would be a profound mistake, on the one hand, to have to cover the cost of abandoning the carbon tax with double-digit tax increases for businesses and individuals through taxes that would tax something other than carbon,” Eby said.

He said when you tax carbon, businesses and individuals have the opportunity to make choices around low-carbon energy sources. That choice would otherwise be taken away.

Eby also addressed questions about whether the federal NDP stands apart from the provincial NDP, when it voted for a failed motion from the federal Conservatives that would have extended the Liberals’ exemption to all forms of home heating. Federal New Democrats also later tabled their own failed motion that would have removed the GST off home heating and charged big oil and gas corporations a windfall tax to finance heat pumps for low-to-middle income earners.

“The key federal relationship for us in terms of delivering affordability and a low-carbon future for British Columbians right now is the federal Liberal party as the governing party and our push has been in alignment with the federal NDP that British Columbia needs to be treated fairly,” Eby said.

“I have a huge amount of frustration about how the news doesn’t seem to make it over the mountains to Ottawa and vice versa and B.C. is not front-of-mind for people in Ottawa and we are continuing our work to change that.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
Read more