McKenna denies claim carbon tax may exceed $50 a tonne

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Published Aug. 26, 2019 2:02 p.m. ET
Updated Aug. 26, 2019 5:53 p.m. ET
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Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says her government's climate strategy, including the federal carbon tax provisions, will stay the course.

She dismissed claims by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre that the government would stretch its promised $50 per tonne price cap by 2022, if re-elected this fall.

This after a Globe and Mail interview with McKenna published Sunday, indicated that the minister was wavering on her decision to raise the levy. She said that while the government had no immediate plans to walk back their pledge, any future amendments would be made in consultation with provinces and Canadians at large.

"Our position has not changed,” she said speaking to reporters at a green jobs announcement on Monday. “Mr. Pierre Poilievre does press conferences all the time, most of the time misleading Canadians."

Poilievre's attempt to throw a wrench in the federal Liberal’s climate plan was pitched to reporters in Ottawa on Monday. There, he stated "the cat’s out of the bag."

"[McKenna] accidentally told the truth. She admitted that if re-elected the carbon tax would go much higher than Liberals previously said,” said Poilievre. “This is the credit card campaign of Justin Trudeau; he’s spending billions of dollars now to get re-elected, putting it on the national credit card, and sending the bill to Canadians after the election when he no longer needs their votes but still needs their money."

Poilievre touted the Conservative's 60-page plan unveiled in June - A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment - as the only “adorable” plan but was light on details of how it would reduce emissions. He said by doing things like removing the HST on heating and cancelling the carbon tax, it would help people get ahead – referencing the party’s new campaign slogan.

When pressed about the science behind the Conservative plan or lack thereof – specifically about how it would lower greenhouse gas emissions– Poilievre said it would focus more on incentivizing industrial corporations to follow sustainable standards and invest back in green technologies.

"The strength in our plan requires companies to actually redirect money to green technology that will clean up their company and industry instead of just generating more money for the government to spend."

McKenna countered this argument in her respective press conference, scheduled just an hour later.

"Pierre Poilievre is the same as Doug Ford, which is the same as Andrew Scheer, which is that this generation of Conservatives; they don’t understand that we need to take action on climate change."

She referenced current climate emergencies around the globe, including the fires in Amazon and the melting Arctic, as grounds to inspire the youth in the audience to take hold of their future. As a first step, she indicated, that means careful consideration about how they vote in the federal election this fall.

The environment will undoubtedly be a hot button issue this election season as parties have already begun signalling how they plan to tackle climate change over the course of the next four years.

"This is going to be an extremely important election," said McKenna. "I hope that to the extent that you care about your planet, you care about a sustainable future, all the young people that are the largest voting bloc, you think very carefully about your choices."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a similar sentiment in Biarritz, France in his final speech at the G7 meeting where climate change was top of mind. Canada has agreed to invest $15 million to help fight the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest.

The Liberal Plan

To reach the Paris climate agreement, the Liberals’ climate change plan promises a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. They have vowed to uphold the federal carbon tax, which is set to increase by $10 per tonne until 2022. The other environmental measures they have or intend to take include: Investing in green technology, innovation, and jobs; requiring mandatory reporting from provinces on GHG-reduction targets; and eliminating many single-use plastics by 2021.

The Conservative Plan

The Conservatives have yet to identify or commit to a specific percentage reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; however they pledged to meet the Paris Agreement. While they’ve promised to scrap the federal carbon tax, they do plan on enforcing an emissions cap on heavy-duty emitters who exceed 40,000 tonnes per year. Those companies would then be required to redirect funds to green technology, innovation and jobs. Other promised environmental measures include: Implementing a green homes tax credit; sustaining greener environments; and supporting and encouraging big emitters internationally to use Canadian-led innovations and resources to reduce emissions.

The NDP Plan

While the New Democrats have yet to identify or commit to a specific percentage reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, it has pledged to surpass the Paris Agreement, reducing emissions by 450 megatonnes. The party says it would keep the Liberals’ carbon tax and its plan to increase the price cap year after year until 2022. The NDP says it will make all-new builds energy efficient by 2030, move to 100 per cent electric transit by the same date, retrofit existing builds by 2050, and move to put an end to oil and gas company subsidies.

The Green Plan

The Green Party has committed to a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, also surpassing the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. Like the Liberals and the NDP, the Greens would uphold a federal carbon tax, but would increase the levy to $50 per tonne until emissions are eliminated altogether. Other proposed measures include: modernizing the east-west electricity grid to ensure an easy flow of renewable energy; implementing a nation-wide retrofit project; eliminating imports of foreign oil; and expanding adaptation measures to protect industries like agriculture, fishing, and forestry.

The People's Party of Canada Plan

Leader Maxime Bernier has said that his party would “do nothing” on climate change, and instead leave it up to the provinces to determine their individual plans. As such, he is not expected to advance a climate plan this election.


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