Don't be fooled by Trudeau's 'flip flop' on the carbon tax, Poilievre tells Atlantic Canadians

It ‘is a scam designed to trick oil-heated households into voting for him one more time before he can hit them with his big tax hike,’ Poilievre said in St. John’s

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OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has a simple message for Atlantic Canadians after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to pull the carbon tax from home heating oil: Don’t be fooled by Trudeau’s “panicked flip flop.”

Speaking in St. John’s, N.L., on Friday Poilievre accused the prime minister of being in “total panic mode” as his numbers are plunging in Atlantic Canada.

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“What caused Justin Trudeau to freak out yesterday and hold a sudden press conference to announce that he was going to pause the carbon tax on home heating oil? The answer is that he was plummeting in the polls,” Poilievre told reporters at a news conference.

“Justin Trudeau’s not worried about the cost of living. He’s worried about the cost of votes, and that’s what caused his panicked flip flop,” he said.

Trudeau announced on Thursday that the federal government is pausing the federal price on pollution for deliveries of heating oil for three years while offering bigger incentives to lower-income households to switch to an electric heat pump to heat their homes.

Oil is used to heat only a fraction of Canadian homes, but it’s the main energy source for the Atlantic region’s 2.6 million residents.

The federal government is also doubling the climate action rebate for rural and small communities — increasing it to 20 per cent from 10 per cent, starting in April 2024. The rebate affects a higher proportion of residents living outside urban areas in the Atlantic provinces than anywhere else in the country.

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The announcement represents a partial climbdown on one of Trudeau’s signature climate policies. The governing Liberals have been sinking in the polls — partly because of the rising cost of living — and energy costs are one reason it appears politically vulnerable in Atlantic Canada, where the federal carbon price just came into effect this summer.

Trudeau’s announcement coincided with the start of his chief political rival’s tour of Liberal ridings in Atlantic Canada. Poilievre started his series of  “Axe the Tax” rallies in Liberal MP Kody Blois’ Nova Scotia riding on Thursday evening.

The Conservative leader mocked Trudeau’s sudden change of heart on the carbon tax and said the temporary pause would simply mean that the Liberals would slap a tax on home heating three years from now — after the next election.

He repeated the message during Friday’s press conference.

“Remember, he’s saying if he gets re-elected in the next election, a year later, he will put the tax back on home heating oil,” he said. “So, this is a scam designed to trick oil-heated households into voting for him one more time before he can hit them with his big tax hike.”

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Poilievre promised that a Conservative government would axe the price on carbon.

“There will be no flip flopping. There will be no turns of corners. There will be no little targeted exemptions here or gimmicks there. We will axe the Trudeau tax completely,” he said.

The Liberals hold 24 of the 32 House of Commons seats in the four Atlantic provinces.

The region’s Liberal MPs, who have been pressing their government for higher carbon tax rebates and exemptions for rural Canadians, welcomed the carbon tax pause.

But Blois said it is important to understand why the measure was introduced.

“(Carbon pricing) is one of the most effective ways to be able to fight climate change and reduce emissions, and I want to remind folks there are 77 jurisdictions around the world that have a form of carbon pricing; Canada is not alone,” he said.

Blois said a summer of record forest fires and flash floods was a reminder of the effects of climate change for Atlantic Canadians.

Poilievre was asked on Friday to comment on his plans to address climate change. He said he would speed up timelines to get projects, such as lithium mines, small modular nuclear reactors and hydroelectric dams, underway to promote cleaner energy.

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He would not say what would be his emissions targets.

Blois, who is the Liberals’ Atlantic caucus chair, told reporters earlier this week that he was not too concerned about Poilievre’s targeting of his riding because he said there is a “strong history of progressive conservatism” among voters and that is not what Poilievre represents.

“When I talk to most conservative-minded individuals, they are concerned about his trajectory in terms of what he represents because it’s a different type of conservatism than what we’ve generally seen in the country,” said Blois.

“People don’t forget that when the merger happened with the Progressive Conservatives and what is now the CPC, that that party is dead,” he added.

However, Peter MacKay, the former leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives, has endorsed Poilievre and called on all Conservatives to unite behind him ahead of the next election during a speech at the Conservative Party of Canada’s convention last month.

— With additional reporting by Bloomberg News

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