Canadian carbon pricing sentiment complicated by urgency to curb emissions, says data scientist

Canadians’ sentiment on the carbon tax hike Nik Nanos, founder and chief data scientist of Nanos Research, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss Canadians' sentiments on the governments carbon tax hike decision, which goes into effect today.

As federal carbon pricing and its associated rebates increase on Monday, with the national price on carbon emissions jumping from $65 per tonne to $80, one chief data scientist says that poor sentiment towards carbon pricing is a result of the Liberal government’s miscommunication on collective sacrifices.

Nik Nanos, founder and chief data scientist of Nanos Research, joined BNN Bloomberg on Monday to discuss Nanos polling released last week, which suggested that significant proportions of Canadians “oppose the carbon tax increase.”

But he said this opposition doesn’t tell the complete story, as Canadians are beginning to understand the urgency of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Other research we’ve done on carbon taxing and the perception of the carbon tax suggests that Canadians are more likely to think that the environment -- (or) combating climate change -- is more important than worrying about the cost of living right now,” he told BNN Bloomberg.

“The challenge right now,” he explained, “with the Liberals focusing on the rebate, (is) they’re not explaining what the impact will be.”

Nanos said better transparency is required on behalf of the Canadian government for Canadians to get on board with higher prices at gas pumps, even with rebate promises that claim financial strains will be fully alleviated.

“The reality is if you want Canadians to make a sacrifice, if we want to move forward on this issue, and if the Liberals truly believe in the importance of the carbon tax, they’ve got to really explain what the destination is. Because that’s how this will be judged,” he said.

If Canadians see that greenhouse gasses go down as a result of higher emission costs, he said, “people won’t be happy but they’ll probably accept the carbon tax.”

If they see that greenhouse gasses don’t go down over time, they’re going to be like, ‘What’s up with this?’ You asked us to do this and greenhouse gasses haven’t gone down.”

Nanos said that the Liberals will be “judged based on the real impact on carbon emissions over the next couple of years,” adding that honesty about collective sacrifices is imperative for improving carbon pricing sentiment.

“The reality is I think Canadians are more sophisticated,” he said. “I think the Liberals should say there are sacrifices that have to be made. More sacrifices from polluters than consumers, but even consumers are going to have to make sacrifices.

To watch the rest of Nanos’ interview with BNN Bloomberg, watch the video above.