Planned anti-carbon price protests prompt security warning to MPs

Click to play video: 'Carbon tax increase fuels affordability politics'
Carbon tax increase fuels affordability politics
The federal carbon price has increased by 23 per cent, meaning burning fossil fuels will cost most Canadians more money, but they'll also get more money in rebates. David Akin explains why hundreds of economists support the hike, how politicians from all sides are criticizing the increase, how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is responding and why the Liberals' poor communication is contributing to the criticism – Apr 1, 2024

Planned protests against the carbon price outside Liberal and NDP MP offices on May 3 have prompted a security warning from the House of Commons.

In an email to all 338 MPs and their staff on Thursday, the House of Commons’ sergeant-at-arms encouraged MPs to take extra security measures “should a demonstration arise at your constituency office or at your residence.”

“This is to inform members that coordinated demonstrations against the carbon tax will take place at members’ constituency offices nationwide on Friday, May 3,” Patrick McDonnell wrote in an email obtained by Global News.

“We continue to strongly recommend that constituency offices follow a ‘locked door’ policy. If an appointment with a constituent is necessary, members or their employees should consider virtual meetings for the foreseeable future.”

McDonnell’s email comes after Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre encouraged demonstrations outside Liberal and NDP constituency offices over the carbon price, which has been in the spotlight since it increased on April 1.

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At a March 10 rally in Toronto, Poilievre said his party is “unleashing a massive pressure campaign on NDP and Liberal MPs” to vote to stop the scheduled April 1 increase in the carbon price – which applies to provinces that don’t have an equivalent plan to reduce carbon emissions.

The money collected by Ottawa from the price is returned to Canadians in those provinces through a regular rebate.

Poilievre has made getting rid of the consumer price on carbon a central plank in his bid to become the next prime minister. He has not revealed any plans to address carbon emissions in lieu of the carbon price but has said he sees the solution through technological measures like carbon capture and nuclear power.

“I can’t do it myself, it involves all of you. Politics is not a spectator sport, it is a participation sport. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Poilievre told the crowd.

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“You need to back me up on the ground … How many will organize protests (outside) of Liberal and NDP constituency offices to pressure them to do the right thing?”

In a statement, Poilievre’s office noted all Canadians “have a right to peacefully and lawfully express their views” to MPs.

“Canadians have every right to tell (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) and his Liberal and NDP MPs that their policies are destroying lives. That is democracy,” wrote Sebastian Skamski, Poilievre’s director of media relations, adding that the Conservatives would do away with carbon pricing “once and for all.”

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In his email to MPs, McDonnell recommends MPs keep any external doors to their riding offices locked, to not engage with the demonstrators and to avoid all physical altercations “even if provoked.”

“If the situation becomes volatile and your security is at risk, call 911 or activate the duress alarm that may be installed in your office to alert local emergency services and consider evacuating your location,” the email read.

“If you are approached outside your office and feel that your security is at risk, activate your mobile duress button to immediately alert your police of jurisdiction.”

Threats against Liberal cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as MPs from opposition parties, have risen in recent years. Global News reported in early 2023 that internal threat assessments suggested senior federal figures faced a trend of “violent rhetoric and intimidation tactics,” spurred in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and extremist ideologies.

Earlier this week, Global reported that Canada’s intelligence community now considers attacks against public officials “unlikely.” Documents obtained under access to information laws show that while the overall national terrorism threat level remains at “medium” – meaning an attack could occur – the threat of an attack against public officials was revised to “low” six months ago.

“We cannot rule out a low-sophistication attack by an inspired lone actor,” according to an intelligence brief classified as secret. “However, the overall volume of threat reporting and credible indicators of intent and capability have decreased since pandemic-era peaks.”

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Campaigning against the carbon price has become a central plank for Poilievre as he tours the country to drum up Conservative support. He held a series of rallies in March pledging to “axe the tax” – a slogan he repeats at every opportunity – ahead of the hike in carbon pricing on April 1.

His push has the support of conservative premiers across the country who failed to put in environmental plans that would satisfy Ottawa’s requirements for reducing carbon emissions, including Doug Ford in Ontario, Scott Moe in Saskatchewan and Alberta’s Danielle Smith.

But even liberal and progressive provincial leaders – such as Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal Premier Andrew Furey, Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie and Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew – have expressed concerns over the carbon pricing system as affordability issues dominate for voters.

With files from Global’s Marc-André Cossette and Stewart Bell

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