Official Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre (CPC-Carleton) asked the Trudeau government Monday in Question Period whether Liberal MPs outside of Atlantic Canada are “totally useless” since they have been unable to get a carbon tax “pause” for their constituents, unlike their counterparts on the East Coast.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a three-year carbon tax “pause” on home heating oil. That announcement overwhelmingly affected Canadians living in Atlantic Canada, where oil remains the home heating fuel of choice. The rest of Canada uses natural gas, which won’t be exempt from the carbon tax for the next three years.
Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Ken McDonald has voted against the implementation of the carbon tax on two occasions – an indication that many other Liberal MPs in Atlantic Canada could also rebel against the levy.
Trudeau has promoted the carbon tax, which is rising to 61 cents on every liter of gas purchased at the pump, as a “tax on pollution” and a means of fighting climate change.
The “pause” was immediately attacked by the Conservative Party leader Poilievre as a way of appeasing unhappy Liberal MPs in Atlantic Canada who are worried about losing their seats in the next federal election over the economic burden created by the carbon tax.
The Globe and Mail editorialized Monday that Trudeau’s compromise means that “the Liberals’ credibility on the carbon tax has gone up in smoke.”
When asked by CTV News whether other regions of Canada might also benefit from a temporary carbon tax moratorium, Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings (Liberal-Long Range Mountains) suggested Canadians should focus on electing more Liberal MPs.
“That's a discussion that we'll have down the road when we know that this one is working, but I can tell you Atlantic Caucus was vocal with what they've heard from their constituents, and perhaps they need to elect more Liberals in the Prairies so that we can have that conversation as well,” she said.
“Since day one, our focus has been solid,” she claimed. “We want to protect the environment, we're going to combat climate change, and we're going to be there for people.”
Poilievre ridiculed Trudeau over the carbon tax exemption, saying it was just a cynical political ploy.
“Just today the snow started falling in Ottawa. Edmonton is also cold … People there are forced to pay tax on natural gas. All these cities have Liberal MPs. The prime minister claims he only backed down on the carbon tax for some Canadians because of the advocacy of terrified liberal members,” he said.
“So is he really saying that the Liberal MPs in the areas where this pause does not apply are totally useless and will never be able to defend Canadians heating their homes?”
Trudeau was absent from the House of Commons Monday and Government House Leader Karina Gould (Liberal-Burlington) responded to the question, claiming that “Canadians who live in jurisdictions where the price on pollution applies get over $1,000 A year from the Government of Canada to fight climate change. When it comes to the Conservatives. They want to take that $1,000 out of the pockets of Canadians.”
Gould did not specify how many Canadians are actually eligible for this carbon tax rebate.
Poilievre referenced the suggestion from the rural economic development minister that Canadians should elect more Liberal MPs.
“She's got it exactly wrong. What they need to do is elect a common sense Conservative government,” he said.
Trudeau has also suggested more Canadians purchase heat pumps as an alternative to traditional methods. Although he has touted the option as “free,” only homes with a family income that is equal or less than the “median” are eligible for government-supplied heat pump. Otherwise, the cost of the item can total $20,000 (USD), is not carbon-neutral and only works effectively in temperatures above 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures in most Canadian cities routinely drop below that level in January and February each year.