Carbon price increase causing ‘worry,’ premiers say, urging pause

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Doug Ford on carbon pricing: ‘Worst place you could put money is into the government’s pockets’
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Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Premier Andrew Furey is calling on the federal government to put a pause on its planned increase of its carbon pricing plan next month, and at least two other premiers are voicing their support.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on X, Furey said that while his government is “deeply invested” in environmental sustainability, the increase set for April 1 “is causing understandable worry as people consider how they will manage the mounting financial strain.”

Furey’s call is the latest facing the federal Liberals as the hike on its federal carbon price, which applies in provinces and territories without their own plans that meet established federal criteria, is set to add 3.5 cents per litre to the cost of gas and four cents on diesel.

Currently, the federal carbon backstop is set at $65 per tonne, increasing to $80 per tonne on April 1. The minimum levy will more than double by the end of the current annual increase schedule, hitting $170 per tonne by 2030.

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Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford, Alberta United Conservative Premier Danielle Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who leads the conservative Saskatchewan Party, each signalled their endorsements for Furey’s call in reposting the letter to their own X accounts.

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“People across Canada are hurting right now from the high cost of living,” Ford wrote. “The federal government needs to put a stop to the carbon tax.”

Both Ford and Moe have previously opposed the pricing plan, with the former announcing last month a planned law to require any future provincial government to put a new carbon pricing program to a referendum.

In Saskatchewan, Moe’s government announced at the end of February that it would not remit what was owed on home heating bills from Crown corporation SaskEnergy to the Canada Revenue Agency, a move Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault called “immoral” last week.

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That province had already planned to stop collecting the carbon price on home heating bills in response to the three-year pause of that same levy for home heating oil, which was criticized for disproportionately benefiting Atlantic Canada.

Smith also criticized the carbon pricing pause on heating oil when it was announced, saying it creates further division in the country. On Tuesday, she said on X that the province stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Furey’s province, saying the pricing plan makes life “more unaffordable and hurts families.”

Manitoba’s NDP Premier Wab Kinew has also said he wants to take another look at how the federal carbon price is applied in the province, but it could take up to three years for any change.

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The letter from Furey goes on to ask for Ottawa to address ramifications currently faced by families and “to not compound them,” urging the government to pause the increase until inflation cools, interest rates lower and pressures on the cost of living “significantly cool.”

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Jesse Bartsoff, spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office, defended the carbon pricing plan as the “most cost-effective way” to protect communities from impacts like Atlantic hurricanes to wildfires.

Furey’s letter also comes just weeks after Ottawa rebranded its carbon pricing rebate program in an effort to make it more clear what the rebate is for when it gets deposited to Canadians’ bank accounts.

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The government said at the time that about 80 per cent of Canadians are getting more from the rebates than they pay in carbon pricing.

The rebates for this year started flowing in January, with another set to be deposited in April, where the supplement for residents in small and rural communities will double to 20 per cent. In October 2023, Trudeau announced that increase as recognition of the increased energy needs and reduced access to cleaner transportation options in those jurisdictions.

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Speaking on background, a federal government source told Global News a move by premiers to cancel the Canada Carbon Rebate would be a “net negative.” The official wrote that cancelling it would “especially target lower-income Canadians,” noting an average lower-income family gets $430 more back than they pay.

The federal Conservatives have criticized the carbon pricing for much of its existence, with Leader Pierre Poilievre promising to remove it if the party takes government in the next election.

Poilievre signalled his own support for Furey’s call on Tuesday as well, calling for a stop to the planned increase on X.

with files from Global News’ David Baxter and The Canadian Press

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