Manitoba premier, Trudeau 'agree to disagree' on role of carbon tax as cost of living climbs
Heather Stefanson repeated call for suspension of tax a day after announcing provincial affordability supports
A meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Heather Stefanson didn't result in an agreement to pause the federal carbon tax — something the Manitoba premier called for — but she suggested she and the PM were more closely aligned on other issues, like boosting immigration.
"There are some issues that we have to agree to disagree on," Stefanson said after her meeting with Trudeau in Winnipeg on Thursday. But on the carbon tax, "what I would say is just don't take the money ... out of Canadians pockets in the first place," she said.
A day earlier, she repeated a call for the federal government to suspend its carbon tax, tying the ask to concerns over inflationary surges in the cost of living.
Trudeau hit several locations during his visit to the Manitoba capital on Thursday, including a meet and greet with nursing students in a hospital training room at St. Boniface University, where he was asked about Stefanson's request for a pause on the carbon tax.
"The premier and others across the country don't seem to be honest" with Canadians about the effects of the tax, Trudeau told reporters ahead of their meeting.
"In the places like Manitoba, where the federal price on pollution applies, average families get more money back from the price on pollution than the extra price on pollution costs them," he said.
To compensate for higher costs from the federal tax — a "backstop" carbon price imposed by Ottawa on provinces that did not develop a carbon pricing plan of their own that met or exceeded the federal one — people in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario now receive federal Climate Action Incentive Payments every quarter.
On Wednesday, Stefanson announced a range of affordability measures for Manitobans, including pledging money to help some families better absorb the inflation-driven rise in prices.
She also called for a freeze on the federal carbon tax — now set at $50 per tonne of emissions, after an increase earlier this year.
"Because Manitobans need help now, we are once again calling on the Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal government to step up and support Manitobans with immediate measures of support," she said Wednesday.
"A useful step by the Liberal government, and what we have already asked for, would be to pause the carbon tax and give Manitobans a break during these difficult economic times."
Stefanson's remarks echo a letter she signed in March with the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan — two of the other provinces subject to the federal backstop — calling for a suspension of the carbon tax.
Last November, she announced that Manitoba was developing a new policy and would negotiate with Ottawa, working toward having the new policy by the end of this year.
WATCH | Trudeau suggests Stefanson not being honest in linking carbon tax, high cost of living:
Ahead of their Thursday meeting, Trudeau suggested Stefanson and leaders of other provinces calling for a pause on the carbon emission reduction scheme are misleading the public by characterizing the carbon tax as a factor in the high cost of living.
Far from pulling back on his government's pledges to combat climate change, Trudeau said Russia's war in Ukraine has exacerbated global supply chain issues, which proves Canada needs to move faster to decarbonize economies.
His comments came the same day premiers from Atlantic provinces asked the federal government for more time before submitting their carbon pricing plans due to affordability concerns facing people on the East Coast. Friday is the deadline for provinces to submit those plans.
Last month, the first two instalments of the federal Climate Action Incentive Payments program rolled out to Manitobans. Federal member of Parliament Terry Duguid (Winnipeg South) said in July the payments would amount to about $830 a year on average for a family of four in the province.
- Federal environment minister says he'll work with Atlantic premiers, but carbon price deadline stands
The credit works out to $416 for individual Manitobans, $208 for a spouse or common-law partner, $104 per child under 19 and $208 for each child in a single-parent family.
The quarterly payments used to come in the form of a refundable credit during tax season.
After their meeting, Stefanson was asked why she couldn't temporarily suspend the provincial gas tax, as Alberta has done, to ease pressure facing Manitobans — something her finance minister has previously ruled out.
Instead of answering that question, she pointed to Manitoba Public Insurance rebates and the affordability measures announced Wednesday as examples of how her Progressive Conservative government is helping people weather inflation.
Stefanson also said Thursday she thinks Ottawa is open to expanding on Manitoba's provincial nominee program so the province could accept more immigrants.
"I said we will take as many immigrants as you allow us, and more," said Stefanson.
Trudeau's Winnipeg visit also included a stop at Stanley Knowles Children's Centre Thursday afternoon.