Wider home-heating cost relief elusive from Parliament

Conmee, Ont. -- Partisan politics in Ottawa continues to stymie any chance of rural Canadians receiving a break on the cost of home-heating — if they don’t fire up their furnaces with oil. An NDP plan to remove the GST on home-heating — regardless of the source — was voted down in the House of Commons on Wednesday by Conservative and Liberal MPs. “This plan would have helped so many people across Northern Ontario, and it just goes to show how (the other main parties) only care about affordability when they can score political points,” NDP MP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay) said Friday in a news release. The home-heating issue is a hot topic in rural Thunder Bay, where most homeowners don’t have access to natural gas and rely on more expensive alternatives. Conmee Mayor Sheila Maxwell has been among those calling on the federal government to eliminate the carbon tax on all sources of home-heating fuel, including propane. Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lifted the carbon tax on oil but left it on propane. The decision was regarded as a cynical move to try and shore up the Liberals’ re-election prospects in Atlantic Canada, where oil is still widely used as a home-heating fuel. Also this week, a Conservative motion backed by the NDP to eliminate the carbon tax on all home-heating fuels went down in flames after it was defeated by Liberal, Bloc and Green MPs. The NDP had previously declined to support the Tories on carbon tax removal, arguing it made more sense just to remove the GST. Even if the motion had passed, it wouldn’t have been binding on the government. Meanwhile, Angus claims, oil companies have been reaping big profits while homeowners feel the pinch on their pocketbooks. “While families struggle to pay their heat bills, Canada’s biggest oil and gas companies brought in $38 billion in profit last year,” he said. The NDP-sponsored proposal to remove the GST on home-heating fuel included “a windfall tax on oil and gas companies making record profits,” the news release said. It added: “The money recovered from the windfall tax could have been used to help Canadians move to cheaper and cleaner home heating options, but Liberals and Conservatives said no.”