With the addition of Manitoba, Saskatchewan is now joined by Ontario and Prince Edward Island in opposition of the federal carbon tax. It’s a far cry from October 2016 when the framework was first announced and Saskatchewan stood alone in defiance.
It’s not the only change Canada’s political landscape has seen since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015. At the time, Brad Wall was the lone conservative-leaning premier.
Following New Brunswick’s election recounts the still-governing Liberals have 21 seats and the Progressive Conservatives hold 22 seats. The People’s Alliance and Green Party each have three seats. Twenty-five are needed to form a majority government.
While different provincial elections that saw Liberal governments defeated all had differing factors, Akin saw carbon tax opposition as a common denominator.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford met with Sask. Premier Scott Moe Thursday in Saskatoon, and is holding an anti-carbon tax rally with United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney Friday in Calgary.
WATCH: Trudeau says it’s ‘unfortunate’ more provinces pulling out of carbon tax
“Presumably, if Ford can get more and more provinces on board he may not need the courts to get the carbon tax stopped, he might just build enough political will that the federal government has to go back to the drawing table,” Akin said.
Ford has said that Ontario will support Saskatchewan in its legal challenge against the carbon tax.
Akin added the federal Liberal Party is closely identified with their provincial counterparts in Ontario and Quebec. Both those parties saw their worst performances ever in provincial elections.
The Coalition Avenir Quebec plans on keeping a cap-and-trade system, unlike other now centre right provinces.
University of Regina political science department head Jim Farney said he sees carbon tax as a free market emission solution, and believes opposition is bolstered by a less economic factor.
WATCH: Trudeau responds to Doug Ford’s rally against carbon tax
“I think a lot of that popular push-back is really being derived by that sense of provincial autonomy and a sense to protect the autonomy of provinces over economy,” Farney said.
Earlier this week, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister scrapped that province’s carbon tax plans, arguing Ottawa would take away provincial autonomy by not accepting $25 per tonne over $50.
Both Farney and Akin agree both Ontario and Quebec electing right leaning provincial governments will pose a challenge for the federal Liberals next year, but they aren’t counting out Trudeau.
“It’s not uncommon for us to have the provinces all look blue or all look red and have the opposite colour federally,” Farney said.
“The really big question mark in terms of the federal election, I think, is Quebec. If their election confirmed anything it’s that block of folks who are a core part of the liberal base are deeply unstable and we don’t really know how they’re going to vote.”
“If you’re a federal Liberal and you’re going to succeed in Ontario and Quebec next year; there might be a little bit of concern,” Akin said.
However, Akin added the polls over the past three years show the Liberals hold a “reasonable” lead over the federal Conservatives. Akin doesn’t see that changing unless the federal NDP show more signs of life.
“If you talk to Conservatives anywhere, and I’ve talked to Conservatives in Saskatchewan, federal Conservatives who are worried about their chances unless the NDP can get off the ground and do a bit better,” he said.
Farney sees a different route for the Liberals to contend with the blue Conservative tide – paint Ford and Andrew Scheer as Canadian Donald Trumps.
“Run against that strawman, just say that listen – ‘Trump is not Canadian. Ford, Scheer and Trump are all the same creature, so you have to vote for us’. I think that will be their core messaging,” Farney said.
The 2019 federal election is just over a year away, scheduled for October 21.