Carbon price is a ‘tough political battle,’ minister says ahead of hike

Click to play video: 'Federal carbon tax increase set for April 1st'
Federal carbon tax increase set for April 1st
Canada's carbon tax is set to increase by $15 on April 1st. Multiple premiers have expressed their opposition to the hike as inflationary pressure persists, but questions remain on what the future of carbon pricing could look like across the country – Mar 24, 2024

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the carbon price remains a “tough political battle” as the controversial decision to keep raising the price is set to kick in on Monday.

Guilbeault told The West Block host Mercedes Stephenson that the increase does more financial good than harm for average Canadians, and is necessary to solve climate change.

“We have a plan that is balanced, that is asking big polluters to do more — way more — than Canadians, but Canadians also have a contribution. We all have a role to play,” he said.

The minister also recognized that many are struggling to make ends meet due to the rising cost of living, but he emphasized that low income and middle class Canadians will get the money from the carbon price increase back in their pockets.

“If we remove carbon pricing from the equation for individuals, people — eight out of 10 Canadian families will be worse off economically. They will have less money in their bank account if we do that,” he said.

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Canada’s 2030 Emission Reductions Plan aims to reduce the country’s pollution by at least 40 per cent by 2030. Guilbeault said that large industrial polluters pay for about three quarters of that target, while Canadian individuals cover the remainder.

When asked by Stephenson why individuals should bear any financial responsibility at all, Guilbeault said “it’s a balancing act.”

“What people pay at the pump and on their energy bill is about 10 per cent. But 10 per cent is not nothing. If I was to remove a part of the plan that represents 10 per cent of our pollution cut, how do I make up for it?” he said.

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Guilbeault added that if Canada transfers more of that balance onto big emitters, it runs the risk of being less globally competitive.

“If we put too much pressure on industrial polluters, some may say, ‘Well listen, this is too tough compared to some of our peers around the world and you’re having us compete at a disadvantage with other nations and companies in other nations around the world,’” he said.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau accuses Conservatives of misleading Canadians on carbon rebate for ‘narrow political gain’'
Trudeau accuses Conservatives of misleading Canadians on carbon rebate for ‘narrow political gain’

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith called the carbon price increase “inhumane” during testimony at a House of Commons committee on Thursday.

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“The so-called solution of the federal government is to increase the carbon tax on something that is life or death for Albertans in the extreme cold of winter,” Smith told the House of Commons operations committee.

“I will say that is inhumane. It begs the question, how far will this government go to make life even more difficult and expensive?” she said.

Ontario Liberals are another recent provincial party to call for a change to the federal carbon price — with leader Bonnie Crombie saying last week that a government she leads would not have a provincial carbon price similar to the federal model. That came after Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Premier Andrew Furey urged a pause on the hike last week.

Guilbeault said on The West Block that no other Canadian leader has presented a plan that would bring the country closer to its 2030 goal as effectively as increasing carbon pricing.

“If you’re serious about fighting climate change, like some of those premiers and political leaders who are saying they are, show me the money. Show me your plan that gets to the type of the science pollution cut that are required,” he said.

“They don’t have a plan… and it is a tough battle, but it’s a battle that needs to be fought and this is why we’re sticking to our guns.”

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The annual carbon price is set to rise to $80 per tonne on April 1 from the current $65 per tonne. Increases are scheduled to take place annually until 2030 when the pollution levy is set to reach $170 per tonne.

Click to play video: 'Carbon price increase is ‘inhumane,’ Danielle Smith tells House of Commons committee'
Carbon price increase is ‘inhumane,’ Danielle Smith tells House of Commons committee

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has also been vocal about stopping the carbon increase, but his “spike the hike” motion was defeated at the House of Commons last week.

As a result of the vote, Poilievre said he would introduce a non-confidence motion in the government over the increase, which did not pass.

–with files from Global News’ David Baxter.

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