Natural resources minister defends carbon tax as provinces pile on

18 March 2024
Natural resources minister defends carbon tax as provinces pile on

Jonathan Wilkinson says ‘there must be consequences’ for Saskatchewan’s refusal to remit tax.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says provincial premiers who are calling on the government to scrap a planned increase on the carbon tax have their facts wrong.

In an interview airing Sunday on Rosemary Barton Live, Wilkinson defended the federal government’s landmark climate policy against a growing chorus of provincial leaders who hope to either delay or ditch altogether the impending April 1 increase.

“Based on the facts, the seven premiers are just wrong,” Wilkinson told guest host David Common.

Wilkinson’s comments are a continuation of a defence of the carbon tax by federal officials — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — on the grounds of affordability. Removing or pausing the carbon tax, they argue, would hurt more people than it helps, because of reduced rebates.

Provincial premiers from across the country have protested the coming increase, which will raise the tax to $80 per tonne from $65. The federal government counters that eight out of 10 Canadians receive more in rebates from the tax than they shell out.

Wilkinson said Sunday that the government needs to do more to convince Canadians of the policy’s benefits.

“I think we do need to do a better job of communicating the affordability dimensions of the price on pollution, because it is something that makes life more affordable,” he said.

The carbon tax has been a primary point of attack for Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who on Friday held a “Spike the Hike” event in Saint John, N.B., where he highlighted two parliamentary motions that will come to a vote this week calling for the increase and broader tax to be scrapped.

Part of the disagreement between the two parties arises from a Parliamentary Budget Office report from two years ago, which presented two models for testing the impact of the tax when it tops out in 2030. Liberals point to the fiscal analysis included in the report that indicated most families would profit from the policy, while Conservatives seized on a broader economic model that showed negative consequences for the economy dragging down Canadians’ financial wellbeing.

Provincial pushback

In a separate interview on Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said that while his government was supportive of the fight against climate change, the cost of living challenge was front and centre.

“Now is not the time to increase another tax,” he told Common.

“Our message now is pause or cut the tax. There are different ways to net zero.”

Saskatchewan has been at the forefront of the provincial fight against the tax, going so far as to refuse to remit the carbon tax collected on natural gas used for home heating, in defiance of the federal law.

“Our view is that if the prime minister thought that a reduction in the carbon tax and a reduction in the rebate for Atlantic Canadians meant that would be a net positive in terms of affordability for those residents, surely the economics should hold true for Saskatchewan,” said Dustin Duncan, the minister responsible for SaskEnergy.

“Clearly, there have to be consequences,” Wilkinson said Sunday.

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