Premier Notley facing criticism for ‘taking a bus’ comment on carbon tax impact

Click to play video: 'Raw: Notley on impact of Alberta carbon tax'
Raw: Notley on impact of Alberta carbon tax
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the impact on consumers from the carbon tax won't mean significant increases, but she suggested it might lead to changes in behaviour, like "having a more fuel efficient vehicle... taking a bus, walking." – Dec 16, 2016

Critics are calling Rachel Notley “delusional,” “a hypocrite” and are accusing her of “talking down to Albertans” after suggesting the carbon tax might sway more people to take a bus or walk.

She made the comments during Wednesday’s end-of-year news conference in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Another rally held for those opposing Alberta carbon tax 

Not surprisingly, the issue of the carbon tax – which takes effect Jan. 1, 2017 – came up. The premier was asked when she expected the trickle-down effects (of carbon tax costs for larger companies, etc) to hit everyday Albertans.

“I think it would take a little while and perhaps it won’t trickle down at all,” she replied. “If you look at what the carbon pricing will do to the price of gasoline, relative to the rate of which the price of gasoline changes week over week, you will see that it is just a fraction of that.”

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“I would expect that you wouldn’t see significant increases,” Notley added.

To that, Global Alberta Provincial Affairs reporter Tom Vernon asked: “What’s the point if the increase of the cost of fuel isn’t enough for us to notice?”

Notley responded:

“I would say you wouldn’t notice in consumer goods, that’s different. I think we all know and many of us are ourselves people that note who has the best gas prices when you go to fill up and you go to the places with the best gas prices and if you see that there’s a few extra cents then it’s not just a question of having a more fuel efficient vehicle, it could sometimes be a question of taking a bus, walking, you know, those kinds of things in terms of the patterns of fuel use that people engage in.”

Since then, the premier has been slammed by opposition members and critics.

“The premier has shown a repeated pattern of talking down to Albertans,” Wildrose leader Brian Jean said. “She called Alberta ’embarrassing cousins’ and told us to ‘make better choices’ and now thinks if you don’t like the carbon tax you should take the bus or walk!”

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“Premier Notley continues to show how out of touch her NDP government is with working families across Alberta,” Jean said.

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READ MORE: Alberta government hosting town halls about contentious carbon tax 

During Wednesday’s news conference, Notley said she’s hearing support for the carbon price plan “from all over the place,” including her constituents, industry leaders, economists and everyday Albertans.

“We heard from them that they wanted a government that was going to take action that would allow us to actually make progress on a matter that quite frankly worries a lot of people. The younger people are, the more likely they are to be worried about it.”

READ MORE: How will Alberta’s carbon tax impact consumers?

She also pointed out there are rebates for low and middle income families. The government says six out of 10 Albertans will get a carbon rebate starting in January.

“We’re making sure that those who are struggling with the economic downturn that we’re facing right now will be supported,” Notley said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation isn’t convinced.

“Premier Notley says if you’re worried about the carbon tax, just walk or take the bus. Are you a family of five pushing a multi-child stroller from daycare to hockey practice, well, just walk or take the bus,” CTF Alberta Director Paige MacPherson said. “Do you live rurally where there is no public transit and it would literally take you over a day to walk to work? Just walk or take the bus!”

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Watch below: Premier Rachel Notley is facing an online backlash from some over a comment she made while talking about Alberta’s carbon levy earlier this week. Sarah Kraus explains.

Click to play video: 'Opposition accuses Premier Notley of talking down to Albertans'
Opposition accuses Premier Notley of talking down to Albertans

READ MORE: Taxpayers Federation billboards urge Alberta to scrap carbon tax 

MacPherson also called out politicians to practice what they preach.

“What about our senior bureaucrats, our ministers, even our premier herself – will they be walking or taking the bus? Of course not and that’s because taxpayers purchase them luxury SUVs and trucks and taxpayers pay for their gas, so they needn’t worry about the impacts of the carbon tax on their commutes to work.”

Cheryl Oates, a spokeswoman for Notley, said the premier is aware that taking the bus is not an option for many in rural Alberta and that comment was not directed towards them. It was brought up as an option for people who want to reduce their carbon footprint in urban centres.

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“It was an hour-long interview I think and the Wildrose found three words they’re trying to torque,” Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman said.

“They’re doing a lot of fear monger and spin things these days instead of actually taking the reality we have, which is: climate change is real and we need to work to do something about it.”

Hoffman added the carbon-pricing plan presents an opportunity to diversify the economy.

“I know they have no interest in doing that but we have a premier that is going to get Albertans back to work in as many industries as possible and support a good, strong, healthy economy in a clean province for future generations.”

READ MORE: Alberta will stick to climate change plan, regardless of Trump’s stance: Notley 

Alberta Can’t Wait – a group that wants to galvanize conservative Albertans ahead of the next election – posted a list of vehicles “in the government fleet that she [Notley] and her cabinet ministers drive.”

A video of Notley’s comment posted on the Alberta Can’t Wait Facebook page had 150,300 views Friday afternoon. Jean’s video had been viewed nearly 190,000 times.

The group also claimed Notley didn’t take a bus while in Ottawa earlier this month to meet with other premiers and the prime minister.

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“Notley didn’t take the bus, an actual bus. Instead, she got into an SUV with her officials,” a Facebook message read. “But you know who did take the bus? Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.”

A spokesperson for Notley said the premier was in fact on that bus along with Wall.

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