N.L. Liberal MP votes with Conservatives over home heating fuel carbon tax exemption

Avalon Member of Parliament Ken McDonald sided with the Opposition Conservatives on Monday in a motion to exempt home heating oil from the federal carbon tax.  (CBC - image credit)
Avalon Member of Parliament Ken McDonald sided with the Opposition Conservatives on Monday in a motion to exempt home heating oil from the federal carbon tax. (CBC - image credit)

Liberal member of Parliament Ken McDonald broke ranks with his party in the House of Commons on Monday, voting in support of a Conservative motion to exempt home heating fuel from the federal carbon tax.

McDonald, who represents Newfoundland and Labrador's Avalon riding, was the only Liberal to support the motion.

"For me it was an easy decision, I guess, to say I was going to vote in favour," McDonald said Tuesday morning.

"I just felt that putting an additional almost 20 cents when you include the HST on it as an increase, at this time of the affordability crisis that this country is into — probably the worst since the Great Depression — I just didn't think it was right to do that and it would have a major effect on the most vulnerable people in our society."

As he voted, the Opposition benches erupted in applause, with one Conservative member yelling, "Come on over!"

The motion, put forward by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, quoted Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey's letter to the federal government in September.

Furey asked his federal colleagues to exempt home heating fuel from the carbon tax to avoid tacking on another 17.3 cents to the cost of a litre, which had already increased 60 per cent from September 2021 and has been a point of concern in Newfoundland and Labrador heading into the winter months.

Government bills are expected to be supported by all party members, McDonald noted, but since Monday's vote was on an Opposition motion, MPs have to let government know, within 24 hours of the vote, of their position.

He said he made his position known last week when the motion was introduced in the House.

The four other Liberal MPs from Newfoundland — Gudie Hutchings, Seamus O'Regan, Joanne Thompson and Churence Rogers — voted against the motion, while Labrador's Liberal MP Yvonne Jones wasn't present for the vote.

Wayne Vallevand/CBC
Wayne Vallevand/CBC

"A motion doesn't have to be acted on by government. If this motion had passed yesterday, government did not have to do anything with it," said McDonald.

"It has to be a bill in order for government to be compelled to do something on that particular vote. To me, I just didn't want to be seen as ignoring the people who put me here."

Carbon prices to triple

The federal price on carbon pollution is expected to triple by 2030. Next year, the price will increase annually by $15 per tonne instead of $10 until it reaches $170 per tonne in 2030. The current price is $50 per tonne.

It's a policy aimed at making fossil fuels progressively more expensive in an effort to encourage Canadians to choose greener alternatives.

McDonald said other Liberal members asked him why he planned to side with the Opposition but he felt no undue pressure from them. He also said he considered the possibility of backlash over  his decision to side with an Opposition motion, the first time he has done so.

"This issue was so important.… It affects the most vulnerable people in my riding and I cannot vote with the government on it."

About 48,000 homes in Newfoundland and Labrador use oil as a heating source.

In his letter in September, Furey wrote, "Further cost increases at this point will only provide diminishing returns in terms of decarbonization while placing undue economic burdens on the people of this province."

McDonald said he didn't have any discussions with Furey ahead of the vote or after it was cast.

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