Residents of North Grenville and the surrounding area are getting fed up with the price of natural gas, and there is no indication the problem will be getting better any time soon. Many have reached out expressing concerns about the impact of the federal carbon tax, particularly due to its impacts on the costs of home heating. For those heating with propane or oil, prices are even higher.
Pam is a local resident who shared some of her concerns. “Things are getting hard to pay – bills let alone groceries,” she said. “It’s just not me, it’s all seniors on a fixed income. Hydro helps out but Enbridge gives no help.” Pam explained that this is a problem that affects everyone. “It’s also young families. I don’t know how they can afford groceries let alone paying all their utility bills plus rent or a mortgage. It’s tough for everyone. “The government charges a carbon tax and then tax on their charge.”
To use my own family as an example, we receive a quarterly climate action incentive rebate of about $268, which works out to $89 per month. The carbon tax on a tank of gas costs us about $6.50 for each of our vehicles. I use about a tank and a half in a typical week, and my wife uses about a tank. That works out to $60 per month in carbon tax for gasoline. For natural gas, our average carbon tax for the last three months worked out to $20 per month. So we pay about $80 per month in carbon tax, and receive a rebate of $89. Great deal, right? Not necessarily.
First, my household represents a better-than-average scenario. My wife works from home all but one or two days per week, my workplaces are close to home, and family is relatively close by for visiting. All of these factors mean we don’t use an excessive amount of gasoline. Our house was built in 2009 and is well insulated with good windows and doors and an efficient natural gas furnace. This means that our natural gas bills are not nearly as high as they are for some households.
Second, we have sufficient financial means to pay out carbon taxes on the gasoline and natural gas that we buy, only to be reimbursed later. The poorer a family is, the more the carbon tax hurts. It’s supposed to be a “net zero” program, but it’s an exceedingly privileged attitude to suggest that every family in Canada must be capable of spending an extra $80+ on gasoline and heating fuel, with the luxury of waiting to be reimbursed every three months.
Third, my “break even” calculation does not account for large increases in the prices of other goods, such as groceries, which are due at least in part to the increased cost of manufacturing and delivering these products as a result of carbon taxes. What appears as a “net zero” carbon tax for an average household may therefore be anything but.
Finally, the carbon tax is unfair by its very nature. A family of six, for example, can expect to receive $112 monthly, as the size of the credit increases with family size. Now imagine that this family consists of two parents and four children, and that both parents work exclusively from home in their properly insulated home. It stands to reason that even accounting for some recreational vehicle use, this family will actually make a profit from the federal carbon tax. By contrast, a single person living alone and working 30 minutes from home will pay a measurable amount in gasoline carbon tax. Let’s say that this individual rents an older, poorly insulated apartment and is expected to pay their own utilities, including propane (already more expensive than natural gas, and similarly subject to carbon tax). Considering that a single person in a rural area is only entitled to about $45 per month from the Climate Action Incentive rebate, this person is poised to lose a lot of money from the carbon tax. What is such a person to do? Move to a better insulated home? Good luck in an outrageous housing market. Work from home? If only it were a choice for everyone. Buy an electric car? Not likely in an economy where so many are struggling just to buy food, particularly when a carbon tax hurts finances even further.
Every household in Canada is in a different situation. Distances to and from work, the type of vehicle they can afford to drive, the way they heat their home and how well insulated their home is, the size of the family including the number of working adults and whether they work from home, etc all vary greatly. No two situations are alike. A blanket climate action incentive rebate is therefore ridiculous. It is a profit for many who don’t need it, and an unhelpful rip-off for many who do.
Wise residents like Pam are correct. The push toward environmental sustainability is extremely difficult for everyone but the wealthy and upper middle class. There has to be a better way. Many are struggling to stay afloat, and they can’t hold their breath forever.