Prime ministers are using rising carbon prices to advance their own political interests, Trudeau says

Most of Canada’s prime ministers would rather complain and “take political advantage” of the federal carbon pricing program than propose viable alternatives to reduce emissions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday, as his government ignored calls for give up your last raise.

Trudeau was responding to Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey’s call for an “emergency leaders’ meeting,” just the latest of several last-minute provincial efforts to prevent a higher fuel tax.

Furey, the country’s only remaining Liberal premier, is among several Atlantic leaders who joined their counterparts in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan in pressuring Trudeau to abandon his $15-a-tonne hike plan, which came into effect on Monday.

Many of them have long opposed any carbon tax, but say the affordability crisis affecting Canadians is reason enough not to raise it further. Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew confirmed last week that he, too, is working on a request for his province to be exempt.

Trudeau says the increase will also mean larger quarterly rebate checks, which families will receive on April 15 to help offset the higher cost of fuel.

The premiers, Trudeau said at a news conference Monday in Toronto, have not proposed any alternatives.

“All those premiers who are busy complaining about the price of pollution, but not putting forward a concrete alternative that they think would be better for their communities, are simply playing politics,” he said.

In a letter to Trudeau, Furey defended actions taken by his province to date to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying Ottawa will have to make a “larger strategic investment” if it hopes to have “any significant impact” on emissions. carbon emissions from Canada. production.

“The threat of climate change is pressing,” he wrote. “There is broad consensus that decarbonization is imperative; there are no serious arguments left against it. The only question is what is the best way to do it at this time.”

Prime ministers are using rising carbon prices to advance their own political interests, Trudeau says. #cdnpoli #carbonpricing #carbontax

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who testified before a parliamentary committee last week about his opposition to the increase, tweeted Monday that the only way to prevent future increases is a change of government.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is well ahead of the Liberals in public opinion polls, has challenged Trudeau to make the upcoming federal vote a “carbon tax election.” That election must take place on or before October 20, 2025.

Poilievre also spent the last month organizing “reduce taxes” rallies across the country with the same message. He was to hold a news conference Monday in Nanaimo, British Columbia, before an evening rally.

Around noon Monday, dozens of people gathered on Parliament Hill, some waving “de-tax” signs, while others wrapped themselves in Canadian flags or expletive-filled messages about the prime minister.

Protesters also temporarily blocked the Trans-Canada Highway linking Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. News reports showed protesters near Aulac, N.B., carrying signs that read: “Eliminate the tax” and “Trudeau must go.”

By mid-afternoon, one lane in each direction had reopened to traffic, but motorists traveling between the two provinces were warned to expect delays, New Brunswick RCMP said.

Trudeau and other carbon pricing advocates say critics are ignoring the fact that Canadian families receive quarterly rebate checks, which are more generous for low-income households, to help them offset upfront costs.

They also point to the costs that climate change has imposed on Canadians through disasters such as wildfires or floods.

Last week, about 200 economists and academics from universities across the country published an open letter defending carbon pricing as the cheapest way to reduce emissions, rather than imposing stricter regulations.

The Liberal Party circulated a petition on social media Monday accusing Poilievre of wanting to cut rebate checks, which range from $760 to nearly $1,800 a year, depending on where the recipient lives.

Trudeau has accused Conservative premiers of lying about the policy’s effect on inflation and has challenged his provincial critics to come up with alternative plans to reduce emissions.

For months, he and his ministers have been struggling to find support for the years-old policy, as Canadians find themselves paying higher prices for food and housing, and Poilievre campaigns aggressively against carbon pricing.

In February, the federal government renamed the payments Canadians receive to the “Canada Carbon Rebate,” formerly the “Climate Action Incentive,” in an effort to boost public support for the policy.

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

– With files from Lyndsay Armstrong in Halifax

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