Prime ministers not sincere about carbon tax, Trudeau says as sparks fly in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Conservative premiers across the country are “not telling the truth” when it comes to the carbon tax.

Reinforcing a letter written the day before, the prime minister accused his pollution pricing opponents of “misleading Canadians” by failing to recognize that the much-maligned April 1 price hike coincides with an increase in the federal rebate. quarterly that households receive.

“For ideological reasons, or reasons of pure partisanship, conservative politicians in this country are not telling the truth to Canadians. And that’s why I denounced them,” Trudeau said during a news conference Wednesday in Vancouver.

He accused Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and Canadian prime ministers opposed to Liberal policy of trying to take money out of people’s pockets, in direct contrast to his argument that the carbon tax is raising costs across all sectors.

Tensions have been high in Parliament amid growing Conservative-led opposition to the carbon tax, ahead of the next increase that will see the $65 per tonne carbon price rise to $80 per tonne.

Trudeau’s comments came hours after he joined the flurry of political leaders writing open letters about the carbon tax, and as new sparks flew in Ottawa in a ousted House of Commons committee.

There, Liberal MPs were outraged that Conservatives unilaterally invited prime ministers opposed to the carbon tax to testify.

Sparks fly over testifying prime ministers

Wednesday’s hearing was prompted by the prime ministers of New Brunswick, New Scotland, saskatchewan and alberta publish letters asking to urgently appear before the liberal-led House Finance Committee to express concerns about the impending increase.

When their request was not met (MPs are not meeting this week and most committees do not have scheduled meetings), the Conservative MP and chair of the Government Operations and Estimates Committee, Kelly McCauley, decided to invite them.

But before the first premier on the agenda, Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe, could begin his testimony, Liberal MPs raised numerous points of order.

“You called the meeting unilaterally without instructions or consultation with the members of this committee… This is a political trick and theater, part and parcel of what our Conservative colleagues are bringing to this, to obtain clips,” said the Liberal MP Irek Kusmierczyk.

Liberal MP Francis Drouin warned that setting this precedent would not be something that would ultimately please the Conservatives, when Liberal committee chairs begin calling witnesses at their discretion.

McCauley defended the move as “fully within” his powers and argued that, as MPs were studying the government’s spending plans, hearing what the premiers had to say was relevant.

“There are many examples of other presidents doing similar things. I think it is the president’s privilege and obligation to call meetings,” he said. “So I did it.”

Not a ‘climate laggard’: Moe and PBO testify

Twenty-five minutes into the hearing, Moe was given the floor.

“I appreciate the warm Canadian welcome,” he said.

“I wore my red tie in the spirit of collaboration,” Moe continued, launching into his arguments about why he believes the federal price on pollution is making life more unaffordable and why he doesn’t consider Saskatchewan a “climate laggard.”

Facing questions from Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs in favor of carbon pricing, the prime minister said that while he believes in climate change and the need to reduce emissions, rather than force Polluters, to pay more, should simply emit less to displace the higher ones. issuing competitors.

“This is how we build a strong Canadian economy. This is how we reduce global emissions. And this is how we employ Canadians in your community and mine,” Moe said.

Testifying after him, Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) faced a series of questions about his much-cited, but contradictorily interpreted, past and recent analysis of the economic impact of the carbon tax.

“I think you’ve been in the press almost as much as Miss Taylor Swift in recent days,” said Conservative MP Philip Lawrence. Stating that he was seeking clarity, he asked: “For the average family where the support applies, is there more money going in or out of the pockets of Canadians?”

“If one looks at the fiscal impact, that is, the amount of carbon tax paid directly and indirectly and the GST applied to these embedded or direct carbon taxes paid minus the carbon rebate, most families are better off situation,” began PBO Yves Giroux. .

However, he continued, once the economic impacts of the carbon tax on some sectors of the economy, such as oil, gas and transportation, are taken into account, “we find that the majority of Canadian families in the provinces where there is the federal support regime will see a small negative impact from the carbon tax.

Liberal MPs were quick to question why Giroux did not factor in the cost of climate change in his calculations, to which the PBO said it is outside the scope of its mandate, suggesting MPs turn to outside think tanks for that. type of cost-benefit analysis. .

From there, the hearing descended into a protracted procedural fight over whether to hold a second hearing with additional witnesses on Thursday. In the record of that meeting They are New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

Trudeau to prime ministers: offer an alternative

In Trudeau’s letter to Canada’s prime ministers on Tuesday night, he implored them to come up with a better climate action plan.

In a two-page message. Posted on social media, Trudeau defended the carbon price and matching rebate program as intentionally designed to be income neutral and beneficial for most Canadian households, while driving climate action.

“Putting a price on pollution is the foundation of any serious plan to fight climate change. It is the most efficient way to reduce emissions across the economy,” Trudeau wrote. “Carbon pricing alone will account for a third of our emissions reductions by 2030.”

Noting that the federal plan is a backup for provinces that have failed to implement an adequate system of their own, Trudeau said the federal government remains open to withdrawing its plan from provinces it opposes, as soon as they propose “credible systems.” . “

Currently, the federal price is imposed in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

In effect since 2019, the pollution pricing regime levies a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, making it more expensive to burn fossil fuels in an effort to encourage Canadians to change their habits.

The prime minister called it “demonstrably false” that the carbon tax is a major driver of inflation, pointing to a Bank of Canada calculation also cited by a number of economists in an open letter published Tuesday that seeks to counter the arguments of the opposition led by conservatives. against politics.

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