Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday accused some politicians of being dishonest about the effects of the federal government’s carbon tax.
The comment, aimed in part at Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, was the latest chapter in a long-running dispute over carbon pricing between the province and Ottawa.
“What the Prime Minister and others across the country don’t seem to be honest with Canadians is that in places like Manitoba, where the federal price for pollution applies, average families get more “money from the price of pollution than the extra price on pollution is costing them,” Trudeau said in Winnipeg, shortly before a half-hour meeting with Stefanson.
“We’ve found a way to fight climate change while supporting families in need, and that’s something we’ll continue to do.”
Trudeau’s comments were in response to Stefanson’s demands to temporarily suspend the carbon tax to help people deal with inflation. Earlier this year, she sent a joint letter with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe urging Trudeau to act.
After the meeting, Stefanson said she and Trudeau discussed the issue but remained at odds. She said it would be more helpful to suspend the tax than to collect it and then give rebates.
“Manitobans need this money now. So rather than taking the money away from them and going through rebates and all that, just leave the money to them,” she said.
Trudeau also fought with Stefanson’s predecessor, Brian Pallister, over carbon pricing. The province’s Progressive Conservative government had planned to introduce its own carbon tax in 2017, but withdrew it after Ottawa said the provincial tax was not high enough.
The federal Liberal government then imposed its own “safety net” system. It adds to the price of gasoline, natural gas and other goods, then pays the money back through rebate cheques.
Manitoba took the case to court and argued that the federal government had no right to impose the backstop. The Federal Court sided with Ottawa last year.
Earlier Thursday, the four Atlantic premiers sent a letter to the federal government asking for a short-term extension to submit plans for their own carbon pricing systems. The letter stated that the additional costs of the tax would amplify inflationary pressures in Atlantic Canada.
Ottawa’s deadline for provinces to submit their plans is Friday.
Stefanson’s Conservatives have worked more harmoniously with the federal government on several fronts, including a recent agreement to upgrade the rail line to Churchill in the north of the province. The two governments are also working together to increase immigration levels, Stefanson said.
However, there are other points of contention. Stefanson criticized the federal government’s plan to reduce fertilizer emissions by 30% by 2030. This issue was discussed at the meeting, Stefanson said, and she and the prime minister continue to disagree. .
During his one-day visit to Winnipeg, Trudeau also met nursing students from the Université de Saint-Boniface in a mock hospital room with fully equipped beds and mannequins for patients.
Trudeau then visited the parents and children at a daycare.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 1, 2022.