Will a rebrand on carbon pricing help Trudeau win over the public?

To fend off Conservative attacks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is planning an information campaign about the benefits of the carbon price rebate, as well as a rebranding of the controversial policy.

The rebranding does not yet have an exact plan but Canadian National Observer has learned that beyond trying to convince banks to clearly label the carbon price rebate when it is deposited, the government is also planning an information campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of the carbon tax, which It is expected to be implemented before tax season. The campaign would be part of the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) efforts to alert Canadians about the refunds they are entitled to.

Each year, the CRA publishes advertisements promoting various tax credits and refunds, ranging from the Canada Child Benefit to Home Accessibility Tax Credits. This year, in the face of growing misinformation about the carbon price rebate, a concerted effort is being made to inform people about the money they are entitled to if they file their taxes.

The federal government must tread carefully when mounting an information campaign. You are allowed to announce your policies, but must remain nonpartisan. With carbon pricing deeply politicized, for the Trudeau government to avoid breaking the rules, it will have to stay firmly on the side of providing information to the public.

Screenshot of the CRA’s Facebook ad from March 2020, offering an example of the type of ad the federal government is considering ahead of this year’s tax season. Screenshot via meta ads library

Advertising expenditures over $250,000 are subject to mandatory review to ensure they align with government policy. Among the requirements are that the advertising be “objective, factual and explanatory”, do not include partisan slogans or images or give the “general impression or appear to promote the interests of a political party” and do not include the name, voice or image of a deputy. or senator, among other rules.

“I think it’s right to want to communicate the tax more effectively, but a marketing campaign that has a significant price tag attached to it could definitely end up hurting them more than helping them,” said University of Victoria associate professor James Rowe. “It just sets them up for another round of attacks.”

The expected attack could be Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre saying Trudeau is spending government money to justify receiving more money from Canadians. “It’s low-hanging fruit,” Rowe said.

Catherine McKenna, a former environment and climate change minister who served in Trudeau’s cabinet when the carbon price was designed and implemented, said Canadian National Observer The federal government should announce the benefits of carbon pricing. That’s because the risk of the public being misled about it is greater than the risk of conservatives launching new attacks, he said.

“It is the government’s job to ensure that Canadians have information about carbon pricing to counter the misinformation that Pierre Poilievre is spreading,” he said. “They have a right to know that the money raised goes directly to their bank accounts, so most families are better off while Canada uses one of the most effective tools to address climate change.”

“You have to defend this policy and go out and talk about how people get their money back, and these conservatives have no plan… You have to do it every day,” says former Climate Minister @cathmckenna.

blood in the water

With Trudeau behind in the polls and some in their own party openly questioning his leadership, there is blood in the water. You’ll have to tread carefully to avoid another hit, Rowe says.

By now the story is well known. After months in which Poilievre rallied support by promising to “reduce the tax” in the face of inflation and the Atlantic Liberal Group in private, and sometimes publicly, urging the government to soften the price of pollution’s impact on people to help re-election chances, Trudeau threw a bone to the caucus. In October, he created exemptions for home heating oil, predominantly used in Atlantic Canada, and explained that his government listens to and takes concerns about affordability seriously.

That reasoning went down like a lead balloon. Several Liberal MPs warned the Prime Minister’s Office that such a move would feed the Conservative narrative that the carbon price is driving inflation. As predicted, opponents of the federal government across the country seized the opportunity and demanded waivers of their own.

“We definitely didn’t do ourselves any favors with the home heating oil exemption,” said BC Liberal MP Patrick Weiler. “That was just – pardon the pun – adding fuel to the fire.”

Like McKenna, Weiler believes the government should promote carbon pricing policy even if there is a risk that conservatives will criticize it because, in his view, the biggest risk is that the public will not understand the rebates they are receiving. There could also be advantages if conservatives launch a new round of attacks, she added.

“Even if that happens, at least it will really focus the discussion on refunds and the more we talk about refunds, the better.

“Starting this campaign now, if the tea leaves are to be believed, potentially gives at least a year and a half until the next election for that information to really reach the people.”

Trudeau and his most senior ministers have repeatedly said there will be no more exceptions to the signatory’s climate policy, but in recent weeks they have admitted that they are losing the communication battle. Polls show that most Canadians want the carbon price eliminated or reduced, even though most Canadians receive more money back through refunds of what they pay.

Misinformation about carbon pricing, often spread by Poilievre, appears to be driving voters into the arms of the conservatives, forcing the liberals to plan a rebrand, as first reported for him toronto star.

For McKenna, changing the name of the rebate is a misdiagnosis of the problem. The problem, in his opinion, is the lack of discipline in the messages.

“We have to defend this policy and come out and talk about how people are getting their money back and these conservatives have no plan,” he said. “You have to do that every day and you shouldn’t get another 100 messages.”

If the main criticism of carbon pricing is that the public cannot bear more costs in the face of difficult economic headwinds, the government must make clear that it benefits the majority of people, he said. When Trudeau suspended the home heating oil tax in Atlantic Canada citing concerns about affordability, that “confuses people,” he said, because it undermines the argument that it puts more money in people’s pockets.

Catherine Abreu, founder of Destination Zero and member of Canada’s Net-Zero Advisory Body, said Canadian National Observer that if the government follows a communication strategy on its climate action, the message should go beyond the carbon price.

“It would be very valuable for the government to communicate to Canadians the ways in which their lives are already being positively impacted by action on climate change, and the fact that many climate solutions are already inherently more affordable than alternatives,” he said. . . “It is a challenge for an entity other than the government to tell that type of story with the seriousness and public outreach that is needed.

“So I hope this can be an exercise in helping Canadians understand why this is important and the ways it could positively impact their daily lives.”

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