Poilievre calls on Freeland to slash gas taxes ahead of summer driving season

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre is calling on the federal Liberal government to scrap taxes on gasoline temporarily as Canadians grapple with eye-popping fuel prices ahead of the busy summer driving season.

Conservative leadership contender wants Ottawa to scrap carbon levy, gas tax and GST on fuel starting June 1

Candidate Pierre Poilievre makes a point at the Conservative Party of Canada English leadership debate in Edmonton, Alta., Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre is calling on the federal Liberal government to scrap taxes on gasoline temporarily as Canadians grapple with eye-popping fuel prices ahead of the busy summer driving season.

With the price of almost everything spiking due to a 30-year high in inflation, the cost of living has become the top political issue in Canada.

Statistics Canada said last week its consumer price index for April rose 6.8 per cent compared to a year ago — up from a year-over-year gain of 6.7 per cent recorded for March.

The war in Ukraine and the resulting supply shocks have pushed up the prices people pay at the pump. Some estimates suggest gasoline is about 55 per cent more expensive this year than last.

Retailers are routinely charging more than $2 a litre in markets like Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Atlantic Canada.

Gas prices in Sydney, N.S. this week. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Tapping into discontent over these higher prices, Poilievre sent a letter to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Tuesday demanding that Ottawa "give people a break" by eliminating the gas tax, carbon tax and GST on gasoline sales this summer.

"It's so high, people are suffering — and there are no signs of relief. Everywhere I go I hear the same thing: Canadians are making really tough choices just to fill up their tanks with gas and get where they need to go," Poilievre said in his letter to Freeland.

"This may not be true for you and your friends, but for most Canadians, driving isn't a choice. They have to drive to see family, drive to do groceries and drive to get to work. In many cases, they need to drive to do their work."

Poilievre is proposing the government suspend the various fuel levies between June 1 and August 31 — when many Canadians will be taking to the road to visit family and friends.

Asked if the government was open to suspending federal taxes on gas, a spokesperson for Freeland did not address the question but said the minister will "continue to focus on supporting hardworking Canadians."

"We know that the cost of living is a real concern for Canadians, and that is why affordability was at the heart of the budget released last month," the spokesperson said. The budget included a promise to implement dental care and some new housing incentives that will kick in later this year or early next.

Poilieve isn't the first Conservative politician to propose tax relief at the pumps.

With prices soaring, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has temporarily suspended the provincial 13-cent-per-litre tax on gas.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, campaigning for re-election, has promised to lower the province's gas tax if Ontarians return his party to government on June 2. Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwarth also has promised some tax relief for motorists.

Poilievre said that, if he becomes prime minister, he'd go further and scrap what he calls the "Brown/Charest/Trudeau carbon tax" — a reference to his leadership rivals Patrick Brown and Jean Charest, both of whom have supported some sort of carbon levy in the past to help reduce the country's reliance on fossil fuels.

Most of the money collected through the Liberal government's carbon price is returned to taxpayers in the form of rebate cheques. It's the cornerstone of Ottawa's plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

In the last federal budget, Freeland also unveiled incentives to encourage people to buy zero-emission vehicles — a switch that would help Canadians greatly reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.


John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

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