OTTAWA - A new poll suggests most Canadians support the idea of a carbon tax - but a far bigger majority favours the broad principle of using the tax system to punish or reward environmental behaviour.
The findings of the Harris-Decima survey come amid increasing chatter from federal Liberals about putting a price on carbon, and suggest the politically risky move could offer a high-stakes payoff.
When asked whether they supported the idea of a carbon tax on businesses and people based on the carbon emissions they generate, 61 per cent of respondents said yes and 32 per cent said no.
Support levels grew even higher when measures were cast in broader environmental terms.
Seventy per cent said they supported a carbon tax on businesses and people, with the money generated spent on incentives for eco-friendly behaviour and renewable energy. Twenty-two per cent disagreed.
The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted from May 1 to 4, and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
Seventy-three per cent of those surveyed supported an environmental usage charge that would apply to people and businesses who use above-average amounts of fossil fuels, water or electricity, or who produce more garbage. Twenty per cent opposed the measure.
Higher still was the support for an environmental tax refund paid to people who reduce their use of fossil fuels, electricity and water, and produce less garbage.
Eighty per cent of respondents supported the idea - while only 16 per cent opposed it.
Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson said the numbers demonstrate that there is strong support for taxing harmful environmental behaviour and rewarding good behaviour.
And he says politicians who cast the idea in broader environmental terms - beyond talk of carbon - would generate far more support.