OTTAWA – Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault attempted to put an end to the swirling speculation in Ottawa that he would resign if there were another carbon tax carve-out.
The question was put repeatedly to Guilbeault during a virtual press conference on Thursday, where he was set to comment the promise of delivering $100 billion from developed countries to help poorer countries cope with climate change ahead of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
“I love being environment minister. I mean, it’s a dream job for me, and I have no intention of leaving the job any time soon,” he said after three attempts by reporters to get him to answer clearly. “Canadians may decide otherwise obviously in our democracy, but for the time being, I want to stay right where I am.”
The speculation comes on the heels of Guilbeault publicly stating that there would be no more carve-outs to his government’s carbon pricing scheme as long as he is in cabinet.
He made those comments after the temporary pause on home heating oil across Canada, but before news broke that the Senate could possibly pass a bill that would exempt the carbon tax from natural gas and propane used to heat farm buildings or run grain dryers.
The fate of the contentious bill, C-234, could be decided when Parliament resumes next week when it will be put to a third reading.
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In the meantime, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said that his party would start a “massive pressure campaign” to convince the upper chamber to vote in favour of the bill, and make sure that it passes. Poilievre also accused Guilbeault of lobbying senators to help him defeat the bill.
Guilbeault said earlier this week that he had indeed made calls to half a dozen senators to explain the government’s position, but denied he was telling them how to vote.
“Obviously the Senate is able to make its own decision,” he said on Thursday. “It hasn’t made the decision on that yet. We will see what decision the Senate comes to and act accordingly.”
Guilbeault has previously said that the government does not support C-234 because 97 per cent of farm fuel is already exempt from the carbon tax, and that the remaining three per cent of fuels are subject to the tax because there are less carbon-intensive alternative technologies available.
He also stressed that there are programs in place to help offset the cost of the carbon tax for farmers or help them buy new environmentally friendly equipment.
But Poilievre, basing his comments on the minister’s public statements, said Guilbeault would have no choice but to resign should C-234 become law because that would be another carve-out to the government’s carbon pricing program.
The question was put to Guilbeault by three separate reporters on Thursday.
“You’re asking me to comment on a hypothetical situation, which is always a very dangerous thing to do in politics,” said Guilbeault when first asked about it.
The second reporter noted that his refusal to state unequivocally that he would not resign regardless of what happens with C-234 meant he might still be considering it.
“Not at all. That’s not what I’m saying,” said Guilbeault. “I’m saying that we have to wait to see what the Senate will decide. I don’t know how the vote will go in the Senate, and we’ll have to see then how do we respond to that decision.”
By the time a third reporter asked him about C-234 passing and how that would square with the government’s pledge to have no more carve-outs, the minister provided a bit more clarity.
“I think people are reading a lot into the comment that I made,” said Guilbeault.
“I take my marching orders from the prime minister of Canada as a cabinet minister. The prime minister said there would be no more carve-outs and that’s the scenario I’m working with.”
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