Conservatives criticize experts who defend federal carbon tax

The Conservatives will not accept the advice of “so-called experts” when it comes to carbon pricing, the party said in a statement Wednesday after more than 200 economists signed an open letter questioning leader Pierre Poilievre’s stance.

Instead, the party pledges to listen to the “common sense of ordinary people.”

“Common sense The Conservatives will listen to the common sense of everyday people, not Justin Trudeau’s so-called ‘experts,'” Sebastian Skamski, Poilievre’s spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday.

The comments come after economists associated with universities across Canada pointed to common assertions in the heated debate over Liberal carbon pricing policy.

Economists rejected claims that the carbon price has raised the cost of living and criticized their opponents for not presenting a less expensive alternative to reduce emissions.

“And they certainly do not offer any alternative that reduces emissions at the same low cost as the carbon price,” reads the open letter, which had garnered 213 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.

Opposition Conservatives have focused almost exclusively on abolishing the carbon price in the run-up to the tax’s scheduled increase (from $65 to $80 per tonne) on April 1.

In response to the letter, the Conservatives say the “experts” are living comfortably while imposing a 23 per cent carbon tax increase on Canadians already struggling with affordability.

Poilievre has organized massive rallies across the country dedicated to his messages of “cut taxes” and, more recently, “raise the tax.”

Conservatives criticize carbon-pricing economists as “so-called experts.” #CDNPoli #CarbonPrice

The Conservatives “won’t stop fighting” until Trudeau, the NDP and Liberal MPs “raise the increase for all Canadians,” Skamski said in a statement.

He did not respond to an interview request.

Debate over the policy reached a fever pitch last week when several prime ministers joined the Conservatives’ call to reverse the planned carbon tax rise.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe questioned the credibility of the economists who signed the letter Wednesday and dismissed their claim that carbon pricing was the least expensive option.

“It’s not the least expensive way in Saskatchewan,” the premier said during testimony before the House of Commons operations committee.

He noted that some of the economists who signed the letter were appointed by the Liberal government to the Ecofiscal Commission in 2016.

McGill University’s Chris Ragan, former chair of the commission and former special advisor to the governor of the Bank of Canada, was actively involved in drafting the letter.

He joined the body in 2016, after Trudeau’s election.

But the commission was an independent group of economists established in 2014, when Stephen Harper was prime minister.

The group’s advisory board consisted of people of all political stripes, including former Progressive Conservative Jean Charest.

Other members included former Liberal Premier Paul Martin and former Progressive Conservative member of the Alberta Legislative Assembly, Jim Dinning.

In the letter, the economists said they welcomed a healthy debate on carbon pricing policy, but urged that it “should be based on solid evidence and facts.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2024.

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