Trudeau and Singh trade shots on carbon tax exemptions amid rumours on future of alliance

‘It’s almost tragic and heartbreaking to see these two squabbling in this way,’ Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre joked

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slammed the NDP for siding with the Conservatives in calling for the government to scrap the carbon tax on all forms of home heating, saying that New Democrats have deceived “millions of progressives” across Canada.

The NDP presented a motion of its own this week to instead cancel the GST on home heating, make heat pumps more accessible for Canadians and tax the “excess profits” of the oil and gas industry, but it was rejected by all the other parties except the Greens on Wednesday.

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Speaking in question period, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pre-emptively asked Trudeau how he could justify voting against his plan to tackle affordability and climate change.

“It was with confusion and consternation that I noted the way that the NDP voted with the Conservatives against one of the most successful measures Canada has ever seen in the fight against climate change,” said Trudeau, speaking about his government’s price on pollution.

“Seeing the NDP vote with the Conservatives against a fight on pollution is something that has disappointed millions of progressives across this country,” he added.

Singh shot back by saying that Trudeau had “literally missed every single target he set” to reduce carbon emissions, seemingly referring to this week’s audit from the environment commissioner which states that the government is set to miss its 2030 targets.

“It’s almost tragic and heartbreaking to see these two squabbling in this way,” chuckled Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, in reaction to Trudeau and Singh’s exchange.

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Trudeau was the latest Liberal to express his disappointment with the NDP’s vote on the Conservative motion earlier this week. Other MPs from his caucus also accused the NDP of sending mixed signals by suggesting another motion to fight against climate change.

“From my perspective, NDP members are trying to cover the fact that they voted with Conservatives,” said Deputy Government House leader Mark Gerretsen in a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

His colleague Kevin Lamoureux said he had expressed “disappointment” with his “New Democratic friends” for the way they voted on Monday and suggested they should take their distances from the Conservative Party “to have a healthier party in the future”.

NDP House leader Peter Julian told the National Post that the Liberals were the ones who came up with a “very improvised plan” consisting of exempting the carbon tax for home heating oil “that blew up in their face” with premiers across the country calling for more exemptions.

“We believe on a price on carbon, yes, absolutely. But the Liberals messed that up… with an improvised, chaotic announcement,” said Julian.

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His colleague Carol Hughes said that removing the price on carbon on heating oil was “the wrong thing for the Liberals to do in the first place because it is one of the most polluting oils” and said her party supported extending the exemption to all forms of heating out of “fairness”.

“We felt that we needed to move that yardstick even more,” she said of her party’s motion to remove the GST on all home heating, including electricity. “That will have a better impact on individuals who are finding it very difficult right now to make ends meet.”

NDP MP Taylor Bachrach, who sponsored his party’s motion, said the NDP just had a “better plan” that would save his constituents money “regardless of how they heat their homes.”

The idea of removing the GST on home heating is not new. In fact, former NDP leader Jack Layton was calling on the federal government to do just that in 2010, and opposed the idea of taxing any necessities, like groceries, said NDP strategist Cam Holmstrom.

“If anything, the NDP is extremely consistent here,” said Holmstrom, who is founder and principal of Niipaawi Strategies. “It’s essential for living, you shouldn’t be taxing it regardless of what the tax is.”

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The latest kerfuffle between Liberals and New Democrats is also raising questions on the state of the supply and confidence agreement between both parties. As reported by National Post’s John Ivison, the NDP could be reconsidering its support and go back to a vote-by-vote basis.

Holmstrom said it is getting riskier for the NDP to associate with a government that has been sinking in the polls unless they obtain some concrete results, like a national pharmacare program.

“You don’t want to be near the building when it falls. And I think for the NDP, it’s like, ‘look, I’m willing to help you hold up as long as you’re putting up your end of the bargain. But if you stop doing that, I’m getting out of the way because I don’t want to be under the rubble.”

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