Liberals walk back carbon tax amid declining poll numbers

On October 26, Trudeau announced a three-year tax freeze for oil used to heat residential buildings, as well as the doubling of the rural reprieve to the carbon tax rebate.

Liberals walk back carbon tax amid declining poll numbers
Facebook/ Jonathan Wilkinson, Facebook/ Danielle Smith, and Facebook/ Steven Guilbeault
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally caved on the carbon tax amid pushback from the public and his caucus.

On October 26, Trudeau announced a three-year tax freeze for oil used to heat residential buildings, as well as the doubling of the rural reprieve to the carbon tax rebate.

"We have to fight climate change in a way that supports all Canadians," he told reporters.

However, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre took Trudeau’s announcement as proof the current government is "not worth the cost."

"After plummeting in the polls, a flailing, desperate Trudeau is now flipping and flopping on the carbon tax as I am holding a gigantic axe the tax rally in a Liberal-held Atlantic riding," Poilievre wrote on X. "He is admitting he’s not worth the cost."

In July, 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.

As of July 1, Atlantic Canada paid as much as 12 cents in carbon taxes on fuel, meaning higher prices at the pumps.

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," 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."

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

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 at the time. "I don't like it. But we need to respond."

However, one standout Liberal MP from the region condemned the carbon tax October 4 in support of a motion sponsored by Poilievre. It called for an outright repeal of the carbon tax to lower fuel costs, counter food inflation and keep electricity and home heating affordable.

Newfoundland and Labrador MP Ken McDonald broke rank with the government to support scrapping the carbon tax, with costs spiralling out of control for residents in his primarily rural riding.

As reported by the CBC, McDonald lobbied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a carbon tax rebate specific to his riding. "I told him exactly as it is," he said. "We're punishing the rural areas of our country and the most vulnerable people in our society."

A recent Leger survey found that 55% of Canadians either want the carbon tax reduced (18%) or abolished (37%). Over two-thirds (68%) of Canadians also said they are not willing to pay higher taxes to support Parliament’s push to achieve ‘net-zero’ carbon emissions by 2050.

In 2019, the feds introduced the carbon tax starting at $20 per tonne that increased to $50 last year. On April 1, Ottawa expanded the tax to $65 per tonne, with successive $15 increases planned until 2030, when it reaches $170 per tonne.

However, the vote failed to muster majority support as only 119 MPs voted "yes," of which 117 votes came from the Conservative caucus. Of the 209 "nays," the New Democrats, Bloc Quebecois and Greens voted unanimously against the motion.

All but one Liberal MP opposed the motion.

The failed motion joins a plethora of other failed Conservative motions prioritizing affordability.

On September 28, 2022, Parliament defeated a motion to scrap the carbon tax by a vote of 209-116 after the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois voted unanimously to oppose it. 

An October 24, 2022, vote received a similar outcome, failing 202–116 from the same parties.

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