62 per cent of Canadians support windfall profit tax on fossil fuels, groups say

Momentum for a windfall tax is growing in Canada, according to Tom Green, David Suzuki Foundation senior climate adviser and economist

“Extending the windfall profits tax to the fossil fuel sector would raise billions for climate solutions with tangible benefits for people.” Reuters/Corbis photo by Todd Korol.

This article was published by The Energy Mix on March 11, 2024.

Nearly two-thirds of Canadians support a windfall profit tax on oil and gas companies, three national environmental groups reported this week, citing a new Léger survey.

The survey, commissioned by the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), 350.org, and Climate Action Network Canada (CAN-Rac), asked respondents whether Canada should introduce a tax on the companies’ record profits, as countries like the United Kingdom have done, the groups said in a release. The idea received 62 per cent support nation-wide, with 21 per cent opposed and 17 per cent undecided. It drew majority backing “throughout Canada”, they reported, with the biggest numbers in Quebec and Ontario.

The release did not contain provincial breakdowns or indicate the number of people surveyed or the methodology used.

The groups note that the 2022 federal budget included a one-time windfall tax of 15 per cent on bank and insurance company profits over C$1 billion. In October, 2023, Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux said a similar tax on fossil fuel companies would raise $4.2 billion over five years, while the Commons Finance Committee recommended windfall taxes on oil and gas and grocery store profits during pre-budget consultations earlier this year.

Windfall profit taxes have been a hot topic since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up oil and gas prices around the world. In June, 2022, Oxfam International said a 90 per cent tax on excess profits to food, pharmaceutical, and oil and companies would raise US$490 billion to address a ‘catastrophic’ global food crisis. That November, former United Nations climate secretary Christiana Figueres said a windfall tax on fossil fuel profits should fund the transition to clean energy.

The industry “arguably has more financial muscle and agency to act than many governments,” she wrote, in a post based on a speech she had previously delivered to the industry itself.

“There is no industry that has as much capacity for harm or as much potential for good at this moment,” she added. “The choice is now theirs, and humanity is watching.”

Nearly 1½ years later, momentum for a windfall tax is growing in Canada, Tom Green, DSF senior climate adviser and economist, said in the release. “We know decision-makers are under pressure to cut spending, but we must invest in a sustainable future for the next generation,” he declared. “Making polluters pay in this year’s federal budget would release billions of dollars in funding for essential climate solutions and nature protection.”

“People across Canada are facing a worsening housing crisis, skyrocketing bills, and climate-driven disasters that threaten our health, homes, and communities,” said 350.org Canada team lead Amara Possian. “It’s time for the government to stand with the majority of the public who support taxing Big Oil’s excess profits.”

“During a year when temperature records are being smashed, we cannot allow CEOs and shareholders to get richer and richer from climate destruction,” said CAN-Rac Executive Director Caroline Brouillette. “Extending the windfall profits tax to the fossil fuel sector would raise billions for climate solutions with tangible benefits for people.”

“Sky-high petroleum prices and sky-high oil and gas profits were the biggest single factor causing recent high inflation in Canada,” said economist Jim Stanford of the Centre for Future Work. “An excess profits tax on the petroleum sector, similar to measures already applied to banks and insurance companies, would be a fair and efficient way to redistribute those inflationary profits back to hard-pressed Canadian consumers. It would be good for the planet and good for the economy.”

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