Poilievre requests Trudeau call meeting with premiers opposing federal carbon price

By Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should convene an emergency meeting with the country’s premiers to discuss the federal carbon price, Conservative Pierre Poilievre wrote in a letter Tuesday. 

Poilievre circulated the letter following the $15-per-tonne increase to the consumer carbon price that kicked in on Monday.

The scheduled increase added about 3.3 cents more to the carbon price per litre of gasoline. A 50-litre tank will now see a carbon surcharge of $8.80, about $1.65 more than before.

The Opposition leader has spent the past month travelling across the country, including to Liberal- and NDP-held ridings in the Greater Toronto Area, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, hosting “axe the tax” rallies.

Poilievre vows to scrap the policy if he becomes prime minister after the next election. 

The federal Conservatives have long opposed charging the fuel levy to consumers, as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. 

The party argues it amounts to a tax. Under Poilievre, it has ratcheted up its attacks in an attempt to connect carbon pricing to inflation and the pressures Canadians are feeling amid broader affordability woes.

Trudeau has pushed back against Poilievre’s assertion the carbon price is adding to families’ financial pain. 

He says critics, including conservative premiers, are inflating the impact of the fuel levy while pointing to how families receive quarterly rebates to help offset costs. The payments are most generous for low-income households. 

In the lead-up to the April 1 increase, Trudeau dismissed calls from seven premiers to cancel it, including from the lone Liberal provincial premier, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Andrew Furey. 

All Atlantic premiers requested the pause, along with Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, which staunchly oppose carbon pricing in general. 

Furey had also requested that Trudeau convene an emergency meeting to discuss alternatives. 

“You must sit down with the premiers and listen to them,” Poilievre wrote in a letter circulated on social media Tuesday afternoon.

“I am requesting that, within six weeks of receiving this letter, you convene an emergency meeting of Canada’s 14 first ministers to discuss the carbon tax crisis,” he said. 

He added: “Included in these discussions should be your willingness to allow provinces to opt out of the federal carbon tax and pursue other responsible ideas for lowering emissions without taxes.”

Trudeau’s office was not immediately available for comment. 

The prime minister has said he’s open to premiers pitching their own ideas, but any proposal must meet federal requirements when it comes to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Every jurisdiction must play its part, he says. 

Trudeau underscored that point while in Dartmouth, N.S., on Tuesday for an unrelated housing announcement, just days after Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston submitted a proposal to Trudeau called “Still Better Than a Carbon Tax Plan.” 

The document summarizes the steps Houston’s government has taken to date to tackle climate change. 

Speaking to reporters, Trudeau said he has not seen details of Houston’s proposal. But he pointed to how the Nova Scotia government’s earlier plans fell short of what Ottawa has required. 

Manitoba NDP Premier Wab Kinew confirmed to reporters last week that he, too, was working on a proposal to request an exemption from the federal carbon price.

Trudeau said on Monday that the seven premiers complaining about the policy had yet to provide detailed plans on how else they would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024. 

— With files from Mia Rabson in Ottawa and Keith Doucette in Halifax.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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