Thursday, June 20, 2024
Media releaseNews

Support for Liberals’ electrification agenda dropping

With growing concerns about affordability, standard of living and health care, Canadians are increasingly unwilling to pay more to advance electrification as part of the energy transition.

On February 15th, Innovative Research Group released a new online poll of 2,185 Canadians conducted from January 4th to 16th, 2024.

Finances remain top of mind, not the energy transition.

Compared to last year, fewer Canadians report being able to explain either electrification or energy transition. Fewer Canadians also say they are taking steps to switch energy sources, either to save money or help the environment.

Most Canadians, 84%, say that inflation is having a direct impact on their finances with 47% saying it is a major impact. Furthermore, almost half (46%) say their electricity bill has a major impact on their finances and requires they do without other important priorities.

However, the big change in the past six months have not been in personal financial circumstances which happened in the first half of 2023. The big change in the second half of 2023 has been in support for political narratives.

Shifts in support for political narratives.

Up until September of 2023, Canadians were divided between leadership and skeptical narratives about the energy transition. While 37% agreed “Government policies to accelerate the transition away from oil and gas show Canada is a leader on climate change and help make the world better for future generations” in September, that dropped to 33% in January.

Meanwhile, the share who agreed “Government policies to accelerate the transition away from oil and gas risk increasing the cost of living and losing jobs in Canada, and aren’t likely to have a significant impact on climate change” grew from 38% to 44%.

This overall trend is generally holding true for attitudes towards the Clean Energy Regulation as well. The one major difference is that the Clean Energy Regulation is gaining attention. Familiarity is up from 31% in June to 38% today. But that is not good news for the Liberals.

Positive impressions of the Clean Energy Regulation have dropped from 51% positive in June 2023 to 33% in January. While negatives remain low (20%), the shift from positive to uncertain raises concerns for the government.

While most Canadians want to move the electricity system to net zero, they are concerned about cost. Just 14% say we should move to net zero by 2035 even if it means a significant rate increase. The largest share of Canadians (42%) say we should move towards net zero, but avoid significant rate increases, even if it delays reaching the goal by 2035. Just 28% say it is important to keep rates affordable than move to net zero.

This is very similar to what Canadians said about the carbon-tax carve out. A majority of Canadians like the idea of a carbon tax, but feel Canadians need a break right now.

The most worrisome news for the Liberal government is the movement on the political narratives related to the Clean Energy Regulation. The survey asked respondents to choose between two points of view:

  • “The Liberal Party of Canada supports establishing Clean Energy Regulations as a way for Canada to show leadership in moving to net zero climate change emissions by 2035, even if it means some increases in electricity prices.”
  • “The Conservative Party of Canada opposes establishing Clean Energy Regulations and prefers the federal government avoid increases in electricity prices and focus on encouraging investments in new technology to reduce emissions instead.”

Support for the Liberal position has dropped from 40% to 31% since June. Support for the CPC position has grown substantially from 39% to 49%.

Canadians remain concerned about climate change and a majority remain generally supportive of the energy transition and climate. But Canadians are concerned about other issues as well, particularly affordability.

While affordability continues to remain top of mind over environmental concerns, the political bottom line is increasingly being driven by families’ bottom lines. The Liberals are at risk of losing this issue to the Conservatives if they are not willing to adjust their policies to reflect changing public priorities.