‘My job is not to be popular’: Trudeau defends carbon pricing increase amid cross-Canada resistance

As Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre puts the prime minister on notice that his party plans to force “multiple votes” on the planned April 1 carbon tax increase, Justin Trudeau is standing by his policy.

“Putting a price on carbon emissions just makes sense,” Trudeau said, facing reporters’ questions about the growing resistance to the pollution pricing and rebate system amid ongoing affordability concerns.

In a close to 10-minute response to one questioner, the prime minister acknowledged that “right now everyone is stressed out with the cost of living,” while stating climate change is one of the real challenges Canadians are facing.

In his lengthy response Trudeau also panned the “political misinformation and disinformation” around the marquee Liberal climate change plan, and suggested it’s an easy solution for “short-term thinker politicians” to call for it to end.

The prime minister said that he feels strongly about not pushing the problem off to future generations, and he thinks the “market-based” carbon pricing approach is “cleaner.”

“My job is not to be popular—although it helps— my job, is to do the right things for Canada now, and do the right things for Canadians a generation from now,” Trudeau said.

“And yeah, it’s not always popular, but I know that doing the right things today… is going to make a huge difference in the path we take forward.”

‘Facing a provincial revolt’

Trudeau’s impassioned defence comes after Poilievre issued a statement earlier in the day signalling a resumption of the Conservative pressure campaign when the House of Commons resumes sitting on Monday.

“Next week we will be forcing multiple votes in Parliament to spike Trudeau’s tax hike. The final vote will be next Thursday. Mark your calendars,” Poilievre said.

According to Poilievre’s office, these “multiple” votes will be a pair of opposition day motions focused on the carbon tax and halting the scheduled increase. The first will be debated on Tuesday and voted on Wednesday, the second will be debated and voted on, on Thursday.

The move is just the latest in Poilievre’s attempts to use procedural mechanisms to push Trudeau to reverse course on the contentious carbon policy. Since becoming leader his party has forced nearly 30 votes on the topic.

The Conservatives’ latest salvo coincided with another provincial leader—Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey—calling on the Trudeau government to pause next month’s carbon tax hike. 

“The coming almost 25 (per cent) increase … in the federal carbon tax on April 1st is causing understandable worry,” Furey wrote in a letter to Trudeau published on social media Tuesday.

April’s tax increase to $80 from $65 per tonne of carbon emissions is part of a series of hikes, coinciding with the national rebate plan, with fees scheduled to rise annually until 2030.

“I respectfully request that you consider pausing the implementation… at least until inflation stabilizes, interest rates lower and related economic pressures on the cost of living sufficiently cool.”

Furey is the latest in a growing number of premiers to oppose or defy elements of the carbon tax. P.E.I. Premier Dennis King, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, have also pushed for the prime minister to relent.

“Trudeau is facing a provincial revolt,” Poilievre said Wednesday. “But Trudeau isn’t listening.”

“Next week, Liberal and NDP MPs will have multiple opportunities to listen to Canadians and vote with common sense Conservatives to spike the April Fools’ hike. Canadians should watch very closely to see if their MPs vote for pain and tax increases, or common sense relief for Canadians.”

Smith vs. Trudeau

Trudeau started his day Wednesday meeting with Premier Smith, where the provincial tensions over the pollution plan were on full display.

During a brief photo-op exchange, Smith said the provinces and federal government “don’t quite see eye-to-eye” on carbon pricing.

“I’m very hopeful that we maybe can come to some solution on that,” she said, citing the need to address issues of affordability.

In response, Trudeau acknowledged they would talk about “pricing pollution and making sure we’re protecting future generations and jobs,” while noting that as of April, the average family of four in Alberta is estimated to receive $1,800 annually through the recently re-branded “Canada Carbon Rebate.”

Political battle brewing?

The federal rebrand did not come with any adjustments to how the federal fuel charge system and corresponding refund actually works. What has changed, is now the government is attempting to frame the calls from those opposed to the carbon tax as calls opposing the economic support provided by the carbon tax rebate.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca responding to Furey’s letter on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance said the Liberal carbon pricing plan will “contribute as much as one-third to Canada’s emissions reductions by 2030,” and is “the most cost-effective way to protect our communities.” 

In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play, NDP House Leader Peter Julian would not say whether his party is supportive of the scheduled April 1 increase.

“We believe for April 1, we should be taking the GST off home heating,” Julian said, noting that change would impact across the country rather than just in the provinces and territories where the federal backstop is in place. 

While it remains to be seen to what degree the carbon price dominates political discussion on Parliament Hill as spring approaches, the Liberals recently passed a motion that would stave off future overnight marathon filibusters, as the Conservatives prompted late last year.

That 30-hour voting saga was held in response to the Liberals’ refusal to scrap the carbon tax completely, after offering selective carve-outs for home heating oil and rural residents.

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