Poilievre accuses Liberals of using trade deal to push 'carbon tax ideology' on war-torn Ukraine

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OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said his party voted this week against a bill updating a Canada-Ukraine trade deal because it included an agreement to  “promote carbon pricing,” while Liberals are portraying the move as an abandonment of the war-torn country.

On Wednesday, Poilievre accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of wanting to “impose his carbon tax ideology” on a country at war.

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Conservatives voted against C-57, a bill to implement a new free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine, in second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Government House leader Karina Gould said after the vote she was “absolutely gobsmacked” by the Conservatives’ vote.

The main issue the Conservatives say they have with the revised trade deal, which was signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his visit in Ottawa last September, is its reference to “promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks”.

Ukraine has had a carbon tax in place since 2011 that consists of a small levy of a bit more than a dollar per tonne of CO2 emissions from industrial emitters.

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Canada’s carbon tax is at $65 per tonne this year and is set to increase to $170 per tonne by 2030.

C-57 was able to move to committee with the support of the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, who all voted in favour of the bill.

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Poilievre told reporters on Wednesday that his party supports free trade with Ukraine, pointing out that former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s government had negotiated the original free trade deal in 2015. The deal took effect in 2017, when Trudeau was prime minister.

“I really think it speaks to how pathologically obsessed Trudeau is with the carbon tax, that while the knife is at the throat of Ukrainians, he would use that to impose his carbon tax ideology on those poor people,” said Poilievre before his caucus meeting on Wednesday.

“The last thing they need is a carbon tax when they’re trying to rebuild from war and from this illegal invasion by Russia,” he added.

Bruce Christie, assistant deputy minister for trade negotiations at Global Affairs Canada, told a parliamentary committee meeting on Nov. 7 that such pledges are “not binding provisions; they are co-operation provisions”.

Other recent trade deals with the U.S., the European Union, the Trans Pacific Partnership have not mentioned carbon taxes.

Poilievre said that Conservatives would remove any reference to the carbon tax in the Canada-Ukraine free trade deal if his party took office, and would instead focus on providing Canadian energy and munitions to Ukraine so that it can defend itself against Russia’s invasion.

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On Wednesday, senior Liberals took turns in question period blasting the Conservatives’ refusal to support the new trade deal with Ukraine.

“For the past 18 months, I was pleased to say that we had a multipartisan approach to addressing Ukraine. Unfortunately, that evaporated in a puff of smoke with a very decided and methodological vote taken on behalf of the Conservatives,” said Justice Minister Arif Virani.

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of International Development, accused the opposition of abandoning Ukrainians at a time when they are “dying, literally, on behalf of freedom-loving people of the world”.

“Canadians will remember this moment, and we will never forget that shameful party,” he said.

Gould said she did not believe the Conservatives’ reason for voting against the bill, calling the carbon-tax explanation a “red herring”.

Ukrainian political and business representatives have said the new trade deal will be crucial for Ukraine’s postwar recovery and have urged all members of Parliament to support C-57.

Alexandra Chyczij, national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said she was “grateful to all the parties in the House who supported the legislation in second reading”. She made no mention of the Conservatives’ position on this matter.

“Ukraine can and will defeat Russia – but the Ukrainian people need our sustained support – both in strengthening Ukraine’s economic resilience and in increasing military support,” she said in a statement.

National Post

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