Rather than “foisting” a plan on provinces to reduce emissions, the newest federal Conservative leadership candidate, Erin O’Toole, says he would consider having Ottawa lose revenue in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“I think you can use the tax system, potentially, in reverse,” the Toronto-area MP said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark.
“Perhaps there’s a way where the government can incent, and the government can forego some revenue. I’m looking at a lot of these potential solutions.”
Until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals vaulted to power in last year, O’Toole sat in Stephen Harper’s cabinet. For years, environmentalists and political observers waited to hear how the Harper Conservatives would tackle greenhouse emissions, particularly in the oil and gas sector.
Despite holding power for a decade, with four years in a majority situation, Harper never produced regulations for that sector, though his government did set some for the automotive and coal-fired electricity sectors.
“That was an area we should have moved faster on, absolutely,” O’Toole said. “But there are ways you can actually work on getting emissions down without imposing a tax.”
Earlier this month, Trudeau announced part of his climate change policy includes setting a “floor price” on carbon of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising to $50 per tonne in 2022. If the provinces and territories don’t co-operate by 2018, Ottawa will impose a pricing plan and return the revenue.
While campaigning in 2015, Trudeau spoke at length about working with provinces, a pledge some premiers say he has demonstrably abandoned – and the top reason O’Toole said he can’t support the Liberal emissions-reduction plan.
But another reason, he said, is that he represents an auto-assembly area in Ontario where plants will have to compete with American rivals who don’t have a similar a carbon pricing system.
“People did vote for change, but they didn’t vote for … deficits, they didn’t vote for new taxes,” O’Toole said.
The Ontario MP is the latest Conservative to throw his hat into an already crowded leadership race.
O’Toole served as veterans affairs minister in the previous Conservative government, is a lawyer and former officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and was elected to represent Durham, Ont. in a 2012 by-election.
Acknowledging the political and policy milestones Harper achieved, O’Toole suggested the Conservative party will benefit from a different kind of leader.
“There’s a different leader for a different time,” he said when asked what differentiates him from Harper.
“I’m describing this as the next chapter of the Conservative party.”
During his campaign launch last week, O’Toole announced endorsements from 10 Conservative MPs: Cathy McLeod, Todd Doherty, Blake Richards, Michael Cooper, Kevin Waugh, Robert Sopuck, Jamie Schmale, John Brassard and Colin Carrie.
With files from The Canadian Press