Cannings continues to call for removal of GST on home heating bills

MP wants GST off heating

Last week the federal NDP put forward a motion that sets out (what I believe to be) a truly fair, common-sense approach to deal with two of the most important issues of our time—the climate catastrophes we are living through every year across this country and the struggle many Canadians are facing just to get by.

In a nutshell, the motion recognized that Canadians are facing increasing costs of the climate crisis and at the same time are facing rising fuel costs for gas at the pumps and in their home heating while the gas and oil companies that are charging those costs are reaping in record profits. On top of that, both oil and gas heating are contributing to the carbon emissions fuelling the climate crisis. It’s a vicious circle.

The NDP motion proposed three straight-forward solutions to that situation—take the GST off home heating (bills), provide heat pumps free to lower-income and medium-income families in an easily accessed program and fund the program with a windfall tax on the record profits being made by fossil fuel companies.

This motion was a response to both the Liberal’s bungled program to provide relief to some Canadians by taking the carbon tax off home heating oil and the Conservative’s motion to extend that relief to natural gas for home heating as well. Both those ideas fail the fairness test of the federation.

The Liberal program benefits predominantly Atlantic Canadians where many homes are heated with oil, while the Conservative motion would have British Columbians and Quebecois out in the cold, because families in those provinces don’t pay the federal carbon tax.

One of the key steps the NDP included in its motion is to take the GST off home heating bills. The GST is not supposed to be charged on the necessities of life. We don’t pay GST on food and I think everyone would agree home heating is a necessity of life in Canada. Removing it on home heating bills would save everyone money across the country—helping people to get by in a truly fair way.

At the same time, action on climate change is also a necessity. This was a summer that marked a shift in public opinion about climate change—public awareness that climate change is not a theoretical event somewhere in the future. We are living it today.

People struggled to breathe across the country this summer (because of wildfire smoke). Thousands had to leave their homes in hastily planned evacuations, including the entire city of Yellowknife (because of wildfires). People lost their homes. People died.

This year was worse than 2021. That was the year of the “heat dome” in late June followed by an unprecedented “atmospheric river” event in November. What many forget, or don’t even know, is that 619 people died of heatstroke in Metro Vancouver during the 2021heat dome. That was the real tragedy of that year.

Most who died lived in lower income areas of the Lower Mainland, in neighbourhoods with no access to shady green spaces. They died in apartment complexes with no air conditioning. They died with their windows closed against the stifling heat.

Providing people, and especially lower income Canadians, with air conditioning would save hundreds of lives during future heat events. If we do that with heat pumps, switching out oil and gas heating units to provide comfortable electric heat in winter as well as air conditioning in summer, we’ll save lives and cut emissions as well. The incredible efficiency of heat pumps will also significantly reduce energy bills, further helping Canadians make ends meet.

Right now, government incentives to install heat pumps are time-consuming, difficult and (heat pumps are) almost impossible to afford for lower income families. We need a simple, essentially free, program to bring this benefit to as many Canadians as possible.

Over the past few years, fossil fuel corporations have raked in record profits as the world oil price soared. The five big oil companies in Canada made $38 billion in profits last year alone. The parliamentary budget officer recently reported a windfall profit tax would bring in more than $4 billion—and that could create a fund that would provide for tens of thousands of heat pumps every year.

Cutting the GST off home heating costs, providing free, efficient heat pumps and funding all that through an excess profit tax on oil companies, these are common sense solutions from the NDP.

(Editor's note: The non-binding NDP motion was defeated Nov. 8, in the House of Commons, 292-30 with only NDP and Green Party MPs voting in favour. Two days earlier, the non-binding Conservative motion calling for the federal carbon tax on all home heating fuels was also defeated, 186-135.)

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Water issues need to be addressed across Canada

Clean water needed for all

One important aspect of parliamentary proceedings that doesn’t get too much publicity is committee work.

House of Commons standing committees offer parliamentarians the opportunity to investigate important issues facing our country, put forward suggestions and concerns, and get real answers from the government.

Last Thursday, I took part in the House of Commons Environment Committee hearings into Canada’s freshwater resources. Appearing before us were representatives from Health Canada, Indigenous Services Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Global Affairs Canada. As you can imagine, the issue of freshwater resources is an immense and complicated—but extraordinarily important—subject, so the conversation was lively and illuminating.

Indigenous Services officials were, of course, asked why there were still 28 First Nations communities with boil-water advisories eight years after the government promised to fix the huge problem of neglect they found when taking office.

Most of these problems go back much further than eight years. For example, the Neskantaga First Nation in Ontario has been on a boil water advisory since 1995. While some of these situations face jurisdictional and engineering challenges, we can all agree they would have been fixed much more quickly in non-indigenous communities.

One of the big water policy issues facing the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding is the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. The original treaty, signed in 1964, focused only on hydro power optimization and flood control in the United States, but much has changed since then. Climate change, ecosystem function, indigenous rights, agriculture and industrial water supply are among the new priorities facing negotiators.

I asked Global Affairs officials about the status of these negotiations, highlighting the fact this year’s drought conditions have clearly shown the need for new decision rules around water flow controls on the Canadian portion of the Columbia.

The treaty requirement to send water south to Washington State to fill the reservoirs behind dams there has essentially drained the Arrow Lakes this year, stranding residents of Nakusp and other communities far from their normal access points for swimming and boating opportunities, while their American neighbours enjoy a full pool behind the Grand Coulee Dam.

Longer, hotter summers are also affecting the water supply in the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan has the smallest watershed supply per capita of any similar sized area of Canada, as it has a very dry climate combined with a small watershed confined to the hills on either side of the valley.

Orchards and vineyards of the Okanagan are an integral and iconic part of the local economy, but they rely entirely on an adequate water supply to irrigate their crops. As summers become longer and drier, the irrigation season expands as well, requiring more and more water with every passing decade. I asked Agriculture Canada about what it is doing to mitigate this coming impasse between domestic and agricultural water needs.

The research station in Summerland has studied both water conservation techniques and climate change for years and hopefully will provide guidance to farmers and water policy makers in the valley with information they need to navigate this difficult issue.

The new Canada Environmental Protection Act, passed last June, introduced the concept of the right of Canadians to live in a clean and healthy environment. Unfortunately, in that act, the right is confined to the protections of that bill alone and lacks accountability measures.

I’ve introduced a private member’s bill—the Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights—that would extend that right across all federal legislation and provide powers to hold the government to account for protecting that right. I asked Health Canada officials in committee about the other pieces of federal legislation that protect our water resources, including the Pest Control Products Act, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Fisheries Act.

It is clear that without this broader approach and stronger accountability, the right to a healthy environment would simply be nice words rather than a meaningful protection for all Canadians.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

MP says 'misinformation' being spread about carbon taxes

Carbon taxes explained

These are difficult times for a lot of Canadians.

At the top of the list is the difficulty many have in finding affordable housing. In addition, groceries continue to rise in price and rounding out the list is always the price of gasoline.

Over the past three years, gas prices have gone up by about $1 per litre at the pumps (in some cities). The cost of producing gasoline has not risen at all, so it’s clear the oil company giants are making a lot of money, and indeed, they’re posting record profits.

The five big oil companies in Canada made more than $38 billion in profits last year alone.

When gas prices go up, it affects the price of everything. In fact, those oil company windfall profits account for about 25% of Canadian inflation costs. In the United Kingdom, the Conservative government there has implemented a “windfall tax” on British oil company profits to bring in billions that will help fund initiatives to ease the pressures of inflation there.

But neither the Liberal government nor Conservative Opposition in Canada dare to do (or call for) the same, even though the CEO of Shell Canada actually suggested they should do just that.

The federal Conservatives have blamed all our inflationary woes on the federal carbon tax, even though this tax only contributes about 0.15% of inflation—15 cents on every $100 grocery bill. The carbon tax has only risen about five cents over the period, when gasoline prices rose by $1. What is hurting Canadians most—the carbon tax or corporate greed? Clearly the latter.

There is so much misinformation out there about the carbon tax I feel it’s high time for some facts to clear the air.

An important point to remember in this debate around the federal carbon tax is it is not in effect in B.C. at all. In B.C., we’ve had a carbon tax since 2008, when it was introduced by the then B.C. Liberal (now BC United) government of then-premier Gordon Campbell. So, calls for the elimination of the federal carbon tax will have no effect in B.C.

Carbon pricing is widely considered by top economists to be the cheapest and most effective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. A rising carbon tax is a signal to consumers that the price of fossil fuels will continue to rise and decisions to move to cleaner alternatives will result in long-term savings.

The federal carbon tax returns essentially all the funds collected to families in the provinces affected—indeed most families get more in their rebates than they spend on the tax.

How can that drive decisions to reduce emissions if the tax is returned to people?Because the amount returned is not related to the amount each family pays in the tax. So, the less gas a person uses, the less tax they pay and the greater the difference between the amount paid and the rebate received.

In BC, the rebate is sent out to lower income individuals and some of the revenue is used to fund emission-reduction programs.

Does the carbon tax work? Studies in B.C., after the carbon tax was introduced here, showed it clearly reduced vehicle emissions in the province. As well, the two provinces with long-term carbon-pricing policies—B.C. and Quebec—lead all the provinces by a wide margin in the uptake of electric vehicles, driven by a combination of carbon pricing and other policies.

Carbon pricing is also a very important incentive for large corporations with big carbon footprints to develop innovative technologies to reduce emissions. Many of these initiatives would not go ahead at all if the carbon tax is eliminated.

So yes, carbon pricing works to bring down emissions but can’t do that essential work all by itself. We need to implement other policies and regulations that tackle other huge sources of carbon emissions.

So why all the misinformation and finger-pointing toward the carbon tax? Conservatives are playing politics and protecting their rich donors instead of getting to the bottom of where inflation is coming from in Canada.

Let’s start telling the truth about the carbon tax. Let’s work to tackle corporate greed through windfall taxes that will bring in billions of dollars that can be used to help the millions of Canadians that are having a tough time making ends meet.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Small businesses need a real CEBA loan extension

Tough times for businesses

This past summer, my NDP colleagues and I worked hard alongside many small businesses, our local chambers of commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses to ask the government to extend the Canada Emergency Benefit Assistance (CEBA) loan repayment deadline for small, struggling businesses.

More than 30,000 small businesses in Canada signed a petition urging the government to extend the deadline and 250 chambers of commerce and other small business organizations wrote to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland directly asking for help.

As the NDP critic for small business, I wrote my own letter, noting 250,000 small businesses could be at risk of closing their doors if the repayment deadline was not extended.

Small businesses have been hit with one thing after another, and they’re still trying to bounce back. So, you can imagine that on Sept. 14, when I first heard extensions would be granted, I thought the government had finally listened to Canadians and granted a much needed one-year extension.

I was excited to call many of the local businesses that had shared their struggles and let them know there was hope on the horizon. I was floored to realize this much-needed extension was a mere 18 days.

So, instead, all I had to share was a half-baked plan that was only designed to push the deadline from the end of December to mid-January, past the busy holiday season. It seemed the government thought a pandemic followed by supply-chain issues, cost of living increases and an inflation crisis meant the mere problem was that small businesses needed a few weeks administrative time to get their repayments in order.

I want to repeat that without a real extension, more than 250,000 small businesses are at risk of not surviving. These are the mom-and-pop stores that sponsor your kids’ sports teams, donate to food banks, kept your family members on the payroll during the pandemic and, in BC, employ more than 43% of workers. They are the backbone of our communities.

So what exactly is CEBA and what is the deal small businesses have been dealt?

Originally, eligible CEBA borrowers had to repay the loan on or before Dec. 31, 2022 to be eligible for the loan forgiveness. That was extended for one year when it was clear businesses were still having a hard time with lingering effects of the COVID shutdowns and rising inflation.

After broad and far-reaching calls to extend the loan’s deadline once again, and the result was less than three weeks, unless businesses forgo the promised loan forgiveness or refinance the loans with their banks. If they don’t meet the 18-day extended deadline, they will lose their promised loan forgiveness and accrue interest on funds owed.

Only 10% have been able to repay their loans. Small businesses in the arts, recreation, hospitality, and social services sectors are most at risk to miss the current CEBA deadline. Without a full-fledged extension—one that maintains the loan forgiveness—the impacts will be devastating for our local economies.

The government must extend the CEBA loan deadline by a year, while maintaining the promised $20,000 loan forgiveness so small businesses can get the relief they need.

Given that the government has done so little to address the skyrocketing costs Canadians are facing, this extension is the least it can do for small businesses.

Only months ago, the Liberals backed up an additional $3 billion in loans to the Trans Mountain pipeline, but 18 days is all it is offering small businesses.

Enough is enough. Summer tourism is over and we need to have these businesses’ backs now more than ever.

I will keep standing up for those who have contributed so much to our country and keep pushing for a real extension on repayment.

Richard Cannings is the NDP MP for South Okanagan–West Kootenay

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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