Liberal MP criticizes party over carbon tax, gas prices soar in Atlantic Canada

In a moment of clarity, a Liberal MP from Atlantic Canada — not seeking re-election — has publicly criticized his party's carbon tax hike and its impact on the region.

Liberal MP criticizes party over carbon tax, gas prices soar in Atlantic Canada
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld and Facebook/ Wayne Long
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New Brunswick MP Wayne Long said residents are 'feeling the pressure' as they struggle to keep their household finances above water. 

With the carbon tax worsening the high cost of living, the MP said a 10% top-up to carbon rebates for people in rural areas does not sufficiently offset their pain at the pumps.

Though Long supports Parliament's carbon tax, he argued the feds need to communicate their vision to Atlantic Canada better. "We've got a problem. It can be a problem of communication or perception, but we've got a problem," he said.

Long's comments come as Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre shored up regional support.

"[Poilievre is] having a free run of it right now," said Long. "I don't like it. But we need to respond."

While campaigning against the carbon tax in New Brunswick, Poilievre took a dig at Ottawa for penalizing its energy sector. 

"[There's] countless reasons why this should be one of the most prosperous places on Earth," he said. "But we've got a federal government that is waging war on our energy sector right now, favouring foreign production rather than domestic."

In 2021, the total cost of imported crude oil in Canada was $14.7 billion, an increase of 30% over the previous year. Of that $14.7 billion, 15% came from Saudi Arabia for over $2 billion and 13% from Nigeria for $1.9 billion. 

"Historically, New Brunswick's Irving Oil Refinery relies on foreign oil imports," said the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Atlantic Canada's premiers have also voiced their opposition against the carbon tax for months, with Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal leader taking potshots against his federal counterparts.

"I take great exception to force this into a dichotomous issue 'either you believe in exactly what we say, or you don't believe in climate change,'" said Premier Andrew Furey. "That's completely illogical, it's a false dichotomy, it's a false dilemma, and it's as insulting to us as it is simplistic."

As of July 1, Atlantic Canada will pay a carbon tax on fuel, meaning higher prices at the pumps — as much as 12 cents per litre more.

According to Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), Nova Scotians will pay the "single-biggest carbon tax hike in Canadian history" of 12 cents per litre, costing families $10 more at the pumps.

"The carbon tax makes the necessities of life more expensive, such as driving to work, keeping your home warm, or going to the grocery store," he said.

"The carbon tax will cost the average Nova Scotia household $431 more than they get in annual rebates."

On June 17, Furey and his Atlantic Canada neighbours told reporters they wanted Ottawa to re-examine the cost burden the carbon taxes would have on people in the region.

"We're already dealing with a high cost of living," said P.E.I. Premier Dennis King. "We have a lot of factors that are working against us, and we can ill afford to see a higher price paid by Islanders, or Atlantic Canadians, at the pump."

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault admitted "households will pay more" because of the $65 per tonne carbon tax — even with a federal carbon rebate.

In 2019, the federal government introduced a price on carbon pollution, starting at $20 per tonne and increasing to $50 per tonne in 2022. On April 1, Ottawa expanded the tax to $65 per tonne, with successive increases planned until 2030, when it reaches $170 per tonne.

"If you do the average, yeah, it's true, it's going to cost more money to people, but the people who are paying are the richest among us, which is exactly how the system was designed," he told CTV on April 2. 

"The rich pay more for their carbon consumption and pollution, and we're supporting, through the transition, middle-class Canadians and low-income Canadians."

That counters what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Nova Scotians at a March 14 press conference. He said the average family of four would receive a climate action incentive cheque worth $272 every three months.

"That's over $1,000 a year and more than makes up for the extra costs because of the carbon price," he told reporters. "This is how you fight climate change."

Nova Scotia families from the lowest earning quintile would receive $226 in federal rebates. In contrast, the highest earners would pay $4,368 annually in 2030. 

A similar family from Newfoundland and Labrador would receive $689, with the province's highest earners paying $4,872 the same year.

"Most households will be worse off when considering this slightly lower economic activity," said Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux. "Only the bottom quintile is better off, but everybody else is likely worse."

On April 6, the PBO updated its federal carbon tax report from March 2022 to include Atlantic Canada. The first carbon tax will add 37 cents to a litre of gas and diesel by 2030.

Guilbeault's parliamentary secretary claimed eight out of 10 families would be better off under the federal regime — $1,000 in rebates received in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. families and $1,300 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

However, the PBO determined the average household in those provinces will pay $431, $465 and $346 more in taxes this year than they receive in rebates. Giroux said Ottawa needs to account for the higher cost of business and the job displacement caused by higher taxes.

"When you look at the other aspects, the broader impact on the economy, and the related impact on the household, then I think it's a more accurate picture of the overall household costs," he said.

By 2030, the PBO estimates the net cost of the first carbon tax — taking into account fiscal and economic impacts — will be $1,513 on average for Nova Scotians, $1,521 for Islanders and $1,316 for Newfoundlanders.

In April, New Brunswick announced it would scrap its provincial plan to opt into the federal program, but Giroux did not mention them in the report.

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