‘It just has to stop’: Carbon price protesters slow traffic on Trans-Canada Highway

Bill Graveland, Canadian Press

Posted on Monday, April 1, 2024 9:28 pmEDT

Last updated Monday, April 1, 2024 9:28 pmEDT

Horns blared along the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary on Monday as a protest against an increase in the federal carbon price slowed traffic.

Hundreds of protesters, many waving Canadian and Alberta flags and holding signs reading “cut taxes,” blocked the main highway to one lane. RCMP officers were present to monitor the event.

“I’m here because our country is falling apart and our government has been tearing us down and this just has to stop,” said military veteran Gary Lambert of Innisfail as he stood on the side of the road.

“It’s not just about ‘cutting taxes’. It’s about freedoms. It’s about our right to free speech.”

The event, organized by a group called National Carbon Tax Protest, was one of 15 that took place across the country.

Ottawa’s planned $15 per tonne increase in the federal consumer carbon price came into effect Monday. This means that the liter of gasoline has risen by 3.3 cents per liter.

There were also protests in several provincial boundaries. Protesters temporarily blocked part of the Trans-Canada Highway linking Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In Ottawa, dozens of people gathered on Parliament Hill, some holding homemade signs. Others wrapped themselves in Canadian flags and others displaying profanities directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

One protester held up a sign that read, “Who is the fringe minority now?”, a reference to what Trudeau called the thousands who came to Ottawa in 2022 to protest COVID-19 mandates and voice broader grievances of the government against the federal liberals.

In British Columbia, BC United opposition leader Kevin Falcon joined about 70 protesters in Richmond.

Falcon said the 23 per cent tax increase is a “cruel April Fool’s joke” on British Columbians, especially those who pay the highest gas taxes in the country.

British Columbia Conservative Party leader John Rustad also attended the rally. He said that by 2030, the average family of four will have paid about $27,000 in carbon fees.

Some provinces have asked the federal government to cancel the increase due to the affordability crisis. Trudeau has said the increase also means larger quarterly rebate checks.

Alberta was hit with another increase on Monday when the provincial government fully reinstated its fuel tax, meaning an increase of four cents per litre. The 13 cents per liter tax was suspended for all of 2023 and partially reinstated in January 2024.

Lambert said he is upset about both federal and provincial tax increases.

“People need to realize it’s not just a tax,” he said.

Allan Hunter from Airdrie said he was also concerned about the double whammy.

“The gas tax increase in Alberta is a little hypocritical on the part of the (United Conservative Party government), but the carbon tax is not just about the carbon that goes into the tank,” Hunter said.

“Everything you buy, every one of these trucks that go by, every one of these cars that go by, everything we consume in this country is increasing today.

“Thank you Justin, you just made things even less affordable for Canadians.”

Lynne Hoff arrived at the protest with her truck pulling a manure spreader. In the background was a man wearing a Trudeau mask.

“It’s the liberal manure spreader,” Hoff said, adding that people at the protest want to send a message.

“I think this is only going to grow. This is just the beginning.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2024.

— With files from Nono Shen in Vancouver and Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa

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