(Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Yukoners favour reducing emissions, wary of carbon tax: survey

Survey respondents are divided on who should receive carbon rebates

Although many Yukoners believe reducing carbon emissions is important, they’re divided on whether they want a carbon tax and how carbon rebates should be handled.

Those are some of the takeaways from a survey done by the Yukon government earlier this year on Yukoners’ opinions on how to implement carbon rebates once a federal plan to introduce a carbon tax in 2018 takes effect.

According to a report released Dec. 20, a total of 665 people responded to the survey between Aug. 16 and Sept. 13, with 475 reporting to be in Whitehorse and the rest, from outside the city.

Nearly a quarter of the respondents were in the 35-to-44 age category, although, according to a demographics report, that age group makes up less than 15 per cent of the population. Only 2.6 per cent of survey respondents were under 25 years, despite that age group making up nearly 27 per cent of the Yukon’s population.

Several themes emerged from the survey results and public information sessions, the report says, including that many Yukoners “place a value on reducing the Yukon’s carbon footprint,” “consider it important to mitigate the impacts of a carbon price on the most vulnerable Yukoners” and recognize that climate changes have a disproportionate effect on the North.

Some Yukoners also strongly disagreed with the idea of a carbon price at all, the report noted, and “fewer respondents and participants than may have been expected were primarily concerned about the impact of a carbon price on the cost of living.”

On receiving carbon price rebates, 54.7 per cent of respondents said they’d favour direct payments to individuals and businesses, with the rest almost evenly split between getting tax credits or having income tax rates reduced.

Almost 60 per cent of survey respondents thought that low-income Yukoners should receive a higher rebate, with 51 per cent also saying seniors and rural Yukoners should also get higher rebates and about 47 per cent saying the same for Yukoners with children.

When it came to businesses, 41.5 per cent of respondents found it important that businesses without electrical grid access receive higher rebates, while just over 32 per cent thought the same for “energy-intensive” businesses.

Respondents also said businesses taking “green” actions, small businesses, non-governmental organizations and charities, community-based businesses, businesses that are beneficial to the Yukon, essential services and aviation and transportation businesses should be targeted for rebates.

Respondents were divided on whether mining, food and carbon-intensive businesses should receive rebates or be excluded from them.

The survey also resulted in several contradictory opinions being voiced, the report says.

For example, while a number of respondents said low-income Yukoners or people on social assistance should receive higher rebates, other comments specifically mentioned that those groups should be excluded.

As well, the number of survey respondents who were against a carbon tax overall was almost the same as the number who said they believe reducing carbon emissions is important.

In other parts of the survey, some respondents “noted a specific concern that the rebate program should not become a mechanism for wealth redistribution (i.e. not targeting higher rebates for lower income individuals), or other forms of ‘social engineering’ (as it was termed by a couple of respondents).”

The survey results will be among the things the Yukon government will factor in when implementing carbon pricing, the report concludes. The territorial government is also waiting on the results of a joint federal-territorial study and clarification on several points in the federal carbon pricing mechanism.

“Once details are clear from Canada … the Yukon government will be able to proceed with the design of a rebate mechanism, taking into consideration the feedback received through the survey and the information sessions,” the report says.

“A clear message was heard from Yukon stakeholders and First Nations that further conversation would be welcome on this topic.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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