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Five premiers unite over demands to cut carbon tax

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says Canadians “shouldn’t have to choose” between heating their homes and Christmas gifts, a statement he made to explain why he signed a letter, joining western premiers in calling for more carbon tax relief.

In a letter made public over the weekend, five premiers – from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan - are calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with them to discuss their request for carbon tax exemptions on all forms of home heating.

On Oct. 26, Trudeau announced his government would pause the carbon tax on home heating oil for three years to make it easier for users of that particularly expensive form of fuel to switch to electric heat pumps.

It’s a change that was advocated for by MPs in Atlantic Canada, where about 30 per cent of homes still use heating oil in the colder months.

In the open letter, the premiers wrote that while they are pleased Atlantic Canada has received a carbon tax exemption on home heating oil, they believe similar exemptions on other home heating fuels need to follow.

In a social media post, Higgs said the “urgency is real” and “Canadians deserve better.”

He’s been advocating for the tax to be scrapped altogether, since its inception.

Larry Hughes, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, has been crunching the numbers on the inequities that already existed before Ottawa announced the home heating oil exemption.

He wonders if the Climate Action Incentive Payment – which is the money that lands in Canadians’ bank account quarterly to offset the tax – should be made more equitable.

“If you live in Alberta, you get roughly $600 more than a family of four in Nova Scotia. So the family of four in Nova Scotia gets about $978-80. And if you are in Alberta, you get $1,570 or so,” he explained.

He says the home heating oil carve out has weakened Trudeau’s position, especially after learning the country is set to miss its 2030 greenhouse-gas emissions targets, according to a report released last week.

“By doing the carve out, the prime minister definitely did axe the tax and as a result, I think you see Canada still living up to its reputation of being a climate laggard,” he said.

Katherine Cuplinskas, press secretary for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in a statement that Freeland will be meeting with the provinces and territories in December “to discuss issues of importance to Canadians.”

She reiterated why Ottawa singled out oil.

“Last month’s announcement about the price on pollution is a recognition more time and support is needed to help all Canadians across the country, who currently heat their homes using oil, transition to cleaner, more affordable home heating options,” she said.

With files from CTV's Alexandra Mae Jones Top Stories

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