Carbon price could see Liberals ‘annihilated,’ Ford says as Trudeau, Smith meet

Click to play video: 'Carbon price could see Liberals ‘annihilated’ come election time: Doug Ford'
Carbon price could see Liberals ‘annihilated’ come election time: Doug Ford
Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Wednesday suggested that the Liberal government would be “annihilated” in the next election over its carbon pricing scheme, as affordability issues remain top of mind for Canadians. The federal backstop is set to rise from $65 a tonne to $80 a tonne on April 1, which means the fuel charge on gasoline will go from 14.3 cents per litre to 17.6 cents. – Mar 13, 2024
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he “doesn’t understand for the life of [him] what the federal government is thinking” in going ahead with the planned carbon price increase on April 1.

“If they don’t start putting money back in people’s pockets instead of filling their pockets, guess what? They’re going to get annihilated, as I’ve said before, they’re done. They’re done like dinner,” Ford said at a housing announcement in Pickering, Ont. Wednesday.

This happened as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith are meeting in Calgary on Wednesday as pushback grows from provincial premiers to a planned carbon price increase.

The federal backstop is set to rise from $65 a tonne to $80 a tonne on April 1. This means the fuel charge on gasoline will go from 14.3 cents per litre to 17.6 cents.

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“We’ve now seen seven premiers have suggested that we need a pause on April 1, so I’m very hopeful that we can maybe come to some solution on that and address issues of affordability,” Smith said during a photo-op prior to the meeting with Trudeau Wednesday morning.

“Obviously, we will also talk about pricing pollution and making sure we’re protecting future generations and jobs. I’ll highlight that as of the beginning of April, the average family of four in Alberta will get $1,800 a year Canada Carbon Rebate. That’s money in people’s pockets even as we fight climate change,” Trudeau replied.

Click to play video: 'Doug Ford on carbon pricing: ‘Worst place you could put money is into the government’s pockets’'
Doug Ford on carbon pricing: ‘Worst place you could put money is into the government’s pockets’

Smith highlighted work on the Trans Mountain Pipeline, net-zero energy and cement projects, plus Indigenous economic development opportunities as additional priorities in the meeting.

On Trudeau’s end, he said he’s looking forward to talk about childcare and dentalcare in the meeting.

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Meanwhile, outside the Newfoundland legislature, Conservative Pierre Poilievre released a video saying there is a “tax revolt” and his caucus will put motions before Parliament next week to stop the carbon price increase. The Tory leader also called for protests on the issue outside Liberal and NDP constituency offices.

'My job is not to be popular': Trudeau

Following his meeting with Smith, Trudeau was questioned by reporters on the carbon price dispute at a dentalcare announcement at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

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The prime minister reiterated his prior comments around the rebate, and said there’s a lot of “misinformation and disinformation” around the carbon price. He also said that opponents calling for it to be paused or dropped entirely mean the end of rebates for citizens where the federal backstop is applied.

“They don’t have a plan or they don’t talk about how they’re going to actually use the heavy hand of government, through regulations or through subsidies or some other way, to pick winners and losers in the economy, as opposed to trusting the market,” Trudeau said.

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Trudeau didn’t name any particular political opponents or policies, but Smith has drawn criticism recently for strict new rules around wind and solar development following a seven-month moratorium on new projects.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says carbon pricing necessary to protect future generations: ‘My job is not to be popular’'
Trudeau says carbon pricing necessary to protect future generations: ‘My job is not to be popular’

On growing opposition to the carbon price, the prime minister said it’s not his job to be popular but to make the right decisions for Canada following “decades” of inaction on climate change.

“My job is not to be popular, although it helps,” Trudeau said. “My job is to do the right things for Canada now and do the right things for Canadians a generation from now.”

After the meeting, Smith said she told the prime minister that there is a “cascading effect” on the carbon price that sees small businesses raise prices to recoup costs, which fuels inflation, and means the Bank of Canada can’t reduce interest rates.

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“I did make that case, and I guess we’ll wait and see on April 1 whether I and the other premiers are successful,” Smith said.

Mount Royal University political science professor Lori Williams says there is momentum building against the carbon price, and links the beginning the the three-year pause on home heating oil that Trudeau announced in late October.

“They’ve been sort of backpedaling ever since then. I think it is possible in the first place to make clear what the justification for the tax is, but I also think it’s possible for them to to postpone the increase,” Williams told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau, premiers clash over polarizing carbon pricing hike'
Trudeau, premiers clash over polarizing carbon pricing hike

Trudeau has been firm that after the three-year pause on home heating oil was announced there would be no more carve outs in the policy.

Williams acknowledged that more people make money off the policy through rebates in the end, and premiers aren’t acknowledging the role of provincial taxes on fuel costs.

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However, she says the gap between paying at the pump and receiving a quarterly rebate is amplified by the high cost of living.

“There needs to be, you know, an expression of understanding and sympathy and responsiveness to the challenges that people are facing,” Williams said.

“To say simply that that is not the prime minister’s job to be popular is not going to address the concerns that are being raised today. There has to be a sense of understanding or sensitivity to what people are struggling with, and that that absolutely wasn’t in evidence today.”

Premiers call for a pause

On Tuesday, Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey wrote a letter to Trudeau and posted it on X, calling on a pause for plans to increase the carbon price.

Furey wrote 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.”

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This letter was reposted on X by Smith, along with Ford and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

Later that day, Progressive Conservative Premier Tim Houston posted his own letter to Trudeau on X, saying the increase should be cancelled.

Houston wrote that while government has a role in addressing climate change and reducing emissions, the increase only means “more money out of (Nova Scotian’s) pockets to pay an unnecessary carbon tax.”

Both Furey and Houston said the increase means higher prices to ship goods to and across their respective provinces.

In an emailed statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s communications advisor Jesse Bartsoff said the carbon price contributes “as much as one-third” to Canada’s emission reduction targets for 2030.

“This is the most cost-effective way to protect our communities—from Atlantic hurricanes and flooding to wildfires across the country—and make life more affordable with the Canada Carbon Rebate,” Bartsoff wrote.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan’s decision to not pay federal carbon price is ‘immoral’, Guilbeault says'
Saskatchewan’s decision to not pay federal carbon price is ‘immoral’, Guilbeault says

This is the latest chapter in the growing provincial pushback on the carbon price.

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At the beginning of this year, Saskatchewan stopped collecting and paying the carbon price on home heating in response to Ottawa’s three-year pause on the charge for home heating oil.

Last week while in Montreal, Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault called the move “immoral” suggesting it’s one thing to debate policy but another to break a federal law.

The federal government has signalled this may reduce the amount Saskatchewan families receive in carbon rebates since they cannot pay back money that isn’t collected.

“You can’t opt out of the federation. You can’t opt out of Canada. We have we are a country of laws,” Trudeau said when asked about Saskatchewan withholding what is owed to the Canada Revenue Agency.

“We expect people to obey the law. That’s what governments expect of their citizens. That’s what citizens should expect of their governments.”

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