Trudeau’s carbon tax looks pretty much dead now that most provinces are out
Special to the Financial Post, July 19, 2018
Opinion: Going into the summer meeting of the premiers, the number of provinces supporting the proposed federal carbon tax looks like it’s down to five — maybe four
And one thing that’s likely to be on the agenda will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to mandate a carbon tax in all provinces. As it happens, Premier Ford has already begun making good on his election promise to “scrap” Ontario’s cap-and-trade carbon tax and is vowing to fight any form of a federally imposed carbon tax in the province. He won’t be alone.
How quickly things have changed. It seems hard to believe now, but just over a year ago, nine provinces agreed to Trudeau’s plan to usurp provincial jurisdiction and mandate a national carbon tax. At the time, only Saskatchewan opposed the Trudeau carbon-tax grab. Saskatchewan has since filed a reference case to its provincial court of appeal challenging a federally imposed carbon tax on constitutional grounds, arguing that the matter falls under provincial jurisdiction.
This week, going into the meeting of the premiers, the number of provinces supporting the Trudeau carbon tax looks like it’s down to five — or maybe even four. Soon it could be down to three.
A Liberal provincial government, under P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, is now siding with conservative premiers in Ontario and Saskatchewan
Along with Saskatchewan and Doug Ford’s Ontario, Prince Edward Island has now said it will not accept Trudeau’s mandatory carbon tax. P.E.I.’s environment minister announced this month that his province “doesn’t require a tax to meet our targets” and so his government will instead be “fighting for Islanders” against one. That’s right: a Liberal provincial government, under P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, is now siding with conservative premiers in Ontario and Saskatchewan in fighting Trudeau’s federally imposed carbon tax.
And in Newfoundland and Labrador another Liberal provincial government, led by Premier Dwight Ball, has yet to legislate a carbon tax. Newfoundland Minister of Environment Andrew Parsons had said in May that his government would not be rushed into passing a tax, and would do “what’s in the best interest” of Newfoundland. They wanted to wait, he said, to see what Ontario would do, first. They have their answer now.
There’s also Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. You might remember he was in a rush to announce his own “made-in-Manitoba” carbon-tax plan a few months ago, albeit a less-expensive version than Trudeau’s, with a maximum tax of $25 per tonne of CO2, as opposed to Trudeau’s plan for an eventual tax of $50 per tonne.
Pallister was once so adamant in his defence of his carbon tax, he called our “Axe the Carbon Tax” campaign, and our coalition Manitobans Against Carbon Taxes — which includes the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — “misguided.”
But more recently, Pallister’s government has said it is willing to take the Trudeau government to court so it can follow its made-in-Manitoba tax plan, not one made in Ottawa. “I have a simple message for Ottawa today — back off or we’ll see you in court,” Pallister said more recently.
Even New Brunswick’s Liberal Premier Brian Gallant, who is hosting the St. Andrews meeting this week, seems to be backpedaling on his support of a Trudeau carbon tax. Gallant suggested his province could revisit a carbon tax if his province ends up disadvantaged as a result of other provinces taking a hard line against it.
That whittles the list of premiers firmly in support of Trudeau’s carbon tax down to as few as four: Alberta, B.C., Quebec and Nova Scotia. And by next summer, if Alberta’s United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is successful in defeating the NDP government, Trudeau’s carbon-tax supporters could be down to a mere three.
Things are looking so bleak that Ian Brodie, onetime chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper, stated on Twitter recently: “The carbon tax is politically dead and won’t survive the end of (the) Trudeau prime ministership. Everyone knows this but not everyone will admit it.”
Even some carbon-tax supporters are predicting the same. This week, Warren Kinsella, who once worked for the Chrétien Liberals (and who describes himself as being “110 per cent” in favour of a carbon tax) tweeted that with so many provinces bailing on it, “Trudeau’s dream of a carbon tax is dead, pretty much.”
What a difference a year makes. It wasn’t long ago that the pundits and so-called experts said a carbon tax was unstoppable in Canada. They said there was political consensus on the issue. Some even called our Axe the Carbon Tax campaign nothing but a “fringe” group. Instead, backed by loyal grassroots supporters and two provincial premiers, we have helped change the national narrative on a carbon tax.
What remains to be seen now is if Trudeau will follow the lead of his many predecessors who believed that national unity is a prime minister’s primary responsibility. Will he back off his divisive and increasingly unpopular carbon tax? Or will he make fighting the provinces to force through a carbon tax his election issue for 2019?
Jim Karahalios is the founder of AxeTheCarbonTax.ca.