Most Canadians Say Environment Trumps Energy Prices

A majority of Canadians view environmental protection as being more important than energy prices and expect businesses to carry the burden of a carbon tax, according to a recent poll.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said protecting the environment is more important to them than the price of energy, according to a survey conducted by polling company Nanos Research for the Thousands Islands Energy Research Forum. Twenty-eight percent said energy prices were more important, while 10 percent were unsure.

More than half, or 53 percent of respondents, said the government should impose a new tax on businesses based on their carbon emissions, while less than a third oppose new taxes on fossil fuels or on companies that emit greenhouse gases, the survey showed.

Eleven percent favored a 5 percent tax on energy such as electricity and gasoline which would fund projects to reduce carbon emissions. Almost two-thirds of Canadians are familiar with the debate related to climate change and the use of fossil fuels.

“What’s interesting is that Canadians are cross-pressured,” said Nik Nanos, chairman of Ottawa-based Nanos Research, said in an e-mail. “On the one hand they don’t want new consumer taxes but at the same time they have environmental aspirations.”

While Canada doesn’t have a national price on carbon, British Columbia taxes about 70 percent of carbon consumption and Alberta imposes a levy of $15 a ton for large emitters of greenhouse gases. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under international scrutiny after pulling the country out of the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations emissions-reduction treaty.

The federal government has committed to reducing emissions by 2020 by 17 percent from 2005 levels, a target that was established as part of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord. Without new emissions regulations, the country will fail to meet that goal, Environment Canada said this month.

Nanos Research conducted the telephone and online survey of 1,000 people living in Canada between October 18 and October 21. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

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