Tories, Libs fight over costs of climate action in election-campaign preview

The Tories began this week taking aim at a Liberal plan to introduce a clean-fuel standard

A day after Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer accused the Liberals of plotting to levy a “secret fuel tax” on families, seniors and farmers, the Liberals volleyed back with allegations the Tories have nothing but smears to offer in place of a real climate-change plan.

The federal election is still three months away but both parties seem happy to have this fight. The Liberals are betting that Canadian voters want potent policies to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. The Conservatives are betting that those same voters don’t want to pay too much for them.

The Tories began this week taking aim at a Liberal plan to introduce a clean-fuel standard, which will force cleaner-burning fuels in order to lower overall carbon emissions by 30 million tonnes a year.

Initially, the Conservatives planned to issue a letter from MPs Shannon Stubbs and Ed Fast to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna questioning a lack of detail from the Liberals about how much the fuel standards will affect gasoline prices.

ALSO READ: MPs not running again will get paid around $1.6 million in severance

But by Monday, the party decided to take a harder stance. Instead, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau branding the new standard a secret fuel tax and promising to scrap it entirely if his party wins the fall election.

In his letter, Scheer invoked images of everyday Canadians paying more to live their daily lives — moms and dads driving their kids to soccer practice; seniors going to doctors’ appointments; farmers planting their crops.

“Your secret fuel tax will undoubtedly increase the cost of gasoline by at least another four cents a litre, a fact you continue to hide,” Scheer charged in his letter.

Later on Monday, a group of Conservative premiers took over, gathering in Alberta ahead of the “council of the federation” meeting in Saskatoon, to voice their continued opposition to the Liberal carbon-pricing plan and frustration at being “dictated to by Ottawa,” as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney put it.

Then the federal Liberals fought back.

Calling journalists to the national press theatre in Ottawa, Liberal MPs Sean Fraser and Mona Fortier accused Conservative leaders of embracing policies that amount to “anti-climate action” heading into the federal election campaign.

Certain conservative premiers are spending millions in taxpayers’ money vainly trying to fight the federal government’s right to charge for carbon emissions — a right recently upheld by two court rulings in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Fraser told reporters Tuesday.

“We’ve seen conservatives like Doug Ford and Jason Kenney continue to oppose common-sense solutions that we know are the most effective ways to fight climate change and the most inexpensive as well,” Fraser said.

“The fact is they would rather silence their critics, muzzle scientists as they did under Stephen Harper, and launch lawsuits or smear campaigns rather than actually present opposing views or ideas that will help reduce our emissions in a responsible way.”

Andrew Scheer is no different, he added, accusing Scheer of “trying to scare and mislead Canadians against taking climate action.”

He took strong issue with Scheer calling the Liberal plan for a clean-fuel standard a “secret fuel tax.” It’s a regulation limiting the carbon emissions from fuels, not a tax, he said.

“To describe it otherwise is, frankly, misleading and dishonest.”

However, Fraser would not say how much the new standard might affect prices at the pumps.

In April, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that a federal carbon price and a clean-fuels standard amounted to “double-dipping” by charging businesses twice for every tonne of emissions. The chamber estimated that by 2025, the clean-fuel standard would add 1.5 cents to a litre of gasoline and 3.7 cents for a litre of diesel.

In a cost-benefit analysis released by Environment Canada in February, the department acknowledged the costs of implementing the standard would likely be passed on to consumers, households and industrial users. But the analysis did not suggest what that cost would be.

A draft of the regulations isn’t expected until 2020, with rules for liquid fuels to apply in 2022. Standards for gaseous and solid fuels would follow.

Fraser said the details are still being discussed with provinces, territories and the public and this input could lead to “tweaks” to ensure prices remain affordable for all Canadians.

“This is not some sort of electionary trickery. This is good governance, this is going out and actually having conversations with Canadians and working with provinces and territories to implement a plan that works and will be done in a way that’s affordable for households.”

The Conservatives were swift in their next attack, accusing the Liberals of deliberately evading a clear answer on the clean-fuel costs.

“Despite repeated questions, even today, the Trudeau Liberals still refuse to come clean about how much this secret fuel tax will cost Canadians,” Ed Fast, the party’s environment critic, said in a statement Tuesday.

Fraser later took to social media to express his frustration over the Conservatives’ stance on climate issues.

“I’m tired of some Conservative politicians opposing serious action on climate change. In the 21st century, Canadians expect a real plan to combat climate change, not court battles and wasted taxpayer dollars.”

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

federal election 2019

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

Community engagement process launched to implement northern B.C. First Nation’s rights and title

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

External community engagement process launched to help implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title

Route announced for the Great Regional Air Hug of 2020

Aircraft will be departing from the Vanderhoof Municipal Airport at 12 p.m. on Aug. 15

“Let’s break the silence because we can”

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s awareness walk held Saturday in Fort St. James

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Most Read