Australian PM Tony Abbott with Canadian PM Stephen Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott attended a bilateral meeting last month. The Harper government is facing criticism after congratulating the government of Australia for ending its carbon tax. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Canada's Harper government is facing criticism after congratulating the government of Australia for ending its carbon tax.

Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, issued a statement this week commending the move by Australia's recently elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"Canada applauds the decision by Prime Minister Abbott to introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax," the statement reads.

“The Australian prime minister’s decision will be noticed around the world and sends an important message.”

The Conservatives have used the carbon tax issue to great effect domestically. The government has long accused the Opposition NDP of wanting to impose "a tax on everything," a claim NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has vehemently denied.

The Conservatives campaigned successfully against Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and his "Green Shift" policy in the 2008 election, using the same "tax on everything" line. Dion's plan, which included a carbon tax, was derided by Harper as a cash grab and was rejected by voters at the polls.

'Cheap way of scoring points'

While attacking a carbon tax has made political sense for the Conservatives domestically, critics of the government fear it's further damaging Canada’s international reputation on climate issues with its message to the Australian prime minister.

New Democrat MP Peter Julian calls the move "childish" and "a cheap way of scoring points."

"It doesn't help the Australian government, “ Julian said.

“All this does is reinforce the notion the Harper government doesn’t care about the environment.”

Keith Stewart, a climate change campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, says he can’t figure out whether the message to Australia was “question period shenanigans that got out of hand” or “a deliberate attempt to undermine global negotiations on climate change.”

Either way, he says, it will only cement concerns among environmentalists about the path the Australian government is taking.

“We [Canada] have undermined our previous environmental credentials around the world,” Stewart said.

“Now, to be congratulated by Canada on an environmental thing is pretty much bad news.”

Government comments 'on lots of things'

A spokesperson for Calandra insists there is nothing unusual about it.

“The government comments on lots of things going on in different countries all the time,” the spokesperson said.

Calandra’s message garnered little attention in Canada. But it was picked up by media in Australia and the U.K. Britain’s Guardian newspaper carried an article condemning Canada for dropping “any remaining pretenses of supporting global action on climate change.”

The Canadian communiqué comes as representatives from around the globe meet in Warsaw to try to hammer out an international framework to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadian Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq leaves Sunday to attend the conference.