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Poilievre says ‘spike the hike’, threatens carbon tax non-confidence vote

Conservative leader dangles ‘carbon tax election’ as Liberal MPs ask critics for a better idea
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre addresses his caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is threatening to plunge Canada into a “carbon tax election” as Liberal MPs struggle to defend the government’s signature climate policy against growing backlash.

Poilievre said he intends to move a non-confidence motion in the House of Commons, his latest manoeuvre to pressure the government over the consumer carbon levy.

The Opposition leader has ratcheted up his attacks on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in advance of the April 1 federal price increase to $80 per tonne, up from $65.

That increase is expected to add about three cents to the price of a litre of gasoline.

“I’m giving Trudeau one last chance to spike his hike,” Poilievre said Wednesday in a campaign-style speech to caucus members that was open to media.

“If Trudeau does not declare today an end to his forthcoming tax increases on food, gas and heat … we will introduce a motion of non-confidence.”

Poilievre spoke from behind a podium with his latest slogan — “spike the hike” — emblazoned on a sign on the front and on nearby screens.

The speech followed a new ad blitz and a series of back-to-back rallies Poilievre held across Atlantic Canada, where almost one-third of homes rely on home heating oil, a fuel the government announced last fall it would exempt from the levy for three years.

The exemption decision prompted Conservatives and other critics to accuse Trudeau of blinking on his signature climate policy out of fear of losing votes.

Liberals have since vowed there would be no more carve-outs, which has inflamed long-simmering tensions with premiers.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said his province would no longer remit the federal carbon levy on natural gas, and Liberal ministers said it would mean an end to consumer rebates for people in the province.

Poilievre kicked off last week’s rallies with a campaign event in the Greater Toronto Area with his newest MP, Jamil Jivani, who handily won an election in the riding previously held by former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole.

It’s a region where the Conservatives must grow their support if they hope to form the next government.

Poilievre’s bid to do that includes a heavy focus on Canadians’ mounting affordability concerns, for which he is blaming the federal carbon price.

Ahead of next month’s increase, seven provincial premiers have also panned what Poilievre calls the 23 per cent hike, citing a high cost of living driven by inflation and high food prices.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected their pleas to cancel the increase, saying it would be too easy for the government to delay action on climate change.

Eight environmental organizations released a letter on Thursday decrying politicians who they say are “shamelessly exploiting Canadians’ very real economic pain for political gain.”

“Climate policies have nothing to do with the hardships Canadians are facing, yet these politicians are ignoring the real causes of the cost-of-living crisis and scapegoating carbon pricing,” it read.

Liberals say if Poilievre or the premiers who are opposed are aware of better ways to cut emissions without costing Canadians money, they should say so.

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