Andrew Scheer begins new year with warning of skyrocketing carbon taxes
Conservative leader says his party will release its environmental plan in due course
As the federal government's carbon tax took effect on the first day of 2019, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer slammed what he described as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "signature tax hike."
Speaking before a crowd of reporters at a Giant Tiger store in Regina, Scheer described the carbon tax as a punitive one that will continue to rise, hurting struggling Canadians.
"Whether it's heating your home in the winter or stocking your fridge ... these everyday essentials will become more expensive because of the carbon tax," he said.
Scheer promised the Conservatives would release their own comprehensive environmental plan "in plenty of time for the next election." He said the Liberals' carbon tax is not effective environmental policy.
"They do not have a plan that will reduce emissions. This is a tax plan. The Liberal carbon tax is just about raising revenue for government."
Tax ceiling will rise higher, says Scheer
He warned that the carbon tax, which starts at $20 a tonne and rises $10 annually until 2022, will increase indefinitely. The federal environment ministry has provided briefings that the carbon tax will need to rise to $300 per tonne to be effective, he said.
"So we know Justin Trudeau will raise the carbon tax higher. His experts are telling him to. His own government departments are telling him to," Scheer said.
Instead of the tax, he said the Conservatives would offer incentives to industry to improve "efficiencies."
An output-based carbon tax will apply to industrial emitters on Jan. 1. Provinces like Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick that do not have their own carbon pricing in place will have a carbon tax imposed by the federal government in April, which is expected to increase gas prices at the pumps.
Provincial opposition grows
Scheer said it was heartening to see more provincial leaders, such as Ontario Premier Doug Ford, opposing the tax. Saskatchewan premiers Brad Wall and Scott Moe had originally faced a lonely battle opposing the tax, he noted.
"Now they've got reinforcements and my message to Canadians is that come 2019, the battle will be won," he said. "Provinces won't have to go to court to stop the carbon tax because a Conservative government will repeal it."
Saskatchewan has launched legal action against the tax, asking its Court of Appeal to rule on whether the carbon tax is constitutional.
Shoppers at the discount store stopped to listen to Scheer's speech, with many applauding his critique of the carbon tax.
Not everyone shared the same enthusiasm.
All he gave us today was a lot of smoke and mirrors.- Jim Elliott, Council of Canadians
Jim Elliott, chairperson for the Regina chapter of the Council of Canadians activist group, described it as an empty speech, devoid on details about what the Conservatives would do to reduce emissions.
"Mr. Scheer continued to sidestep and and not answer the question about what his government would do if elected next October," said Elliott in a statement issued after Scheer's talk. "All he gave us today was a lot of smoke and mirrors."
Canada's former parliamentary budget officer predicted in a report in April that the federal government's carbon tax will cut economic growth by 0.5 per cent or $10 billion when it's fully implemented in 2022, and would generate significant revenues.
However, Jean-Denis Frechette's report noted the impact on the economy will depend on how those revenues are used.
Trudeau said Ottawa will return 90 per cent of the money it collects from a carbon tax to Canadians.
with files from The Canadian Press