The Conservative Party has long promised to repeal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal carbon tax mandate immediately after forming a government.
Former Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer’s promise to repeal the carbon tax was on page one of the party’s 2019 election platform. The Conservative Party actually won a plurality of the popular vote on election night with a commitment to repeal the carbon tax front and centre.
Until yesterday, the Conservative Party was adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. So was O’Toole.
When O’Toole ran for the Conservative Party leadership in 2020, he signed a pledge to scrap the carbon tax. That pledge is unequivocal: “If elected prime minister of Canada, I will immediately repeal the Trudeau carbon tax and reject any future national carbon tax or cap-and-trade scheme.”
O’Toole not only pledged to eliminate the federal carbon tax, but he also clearly articulated why it was bad public policy: it increases prices on nearly everything and “makes the poorest pay more.”
When signing his pledge to scrap the carbon tax, O’Toole declared that a federal carbon tax was “unfair on seniors and families” and hurt “small and medium-sized businesses” by making them “uncompetitive.”
O’Toole also stated carbon taxes “do nothing for the environment.”
He was right. British Columbia has had a carbon tax since 2008, but the province’s emissions keep going up.
Because of all these reasons, O’Toole has come out against carbon taxes time and again.
“We will scrap Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax,” said O’Toole just one short year ago.
How things have changed.
Yesterday, O’Toole laid out a carbon tax plan that is in many ways worse than Trudeau’s, if that’s possible.
O’Toole would keep a carbon tax in place and eliminate the carbon tax rebate Canadians currently receive under the Trudeau plan. The current carbon tax makes essential items like home heating expensive and is a thinly-veiled money re-distribution scheme, but at least many Canadians got actual cash in their real bank accounts.
Under O’Toole’s plan, Canadians would acquire money held in “low carbon savings accounts” that they could spend on so-called green products that are on a government-approved list.
Would you prefer cash back under the Trudeau model or O’Toole bucks towards buying a solar-powered e-bike?
Some in the O’Toole camp are arguing that his plan isn’t a tax because money will go into a savings account rather than government coffers. But if the government is taking money out of taxpayers’ wallets against their will, it’s a tax, plain and simple, regardless of the ultimate destination of the funds.
Canadians are too smart to buy O’Toole’s word games.
O’Toole’s plan would also likely bloat government bureaucracy. Like any loyalty reward program, his O’Toole bucks would require significant support to run and maintain on the back end. And who’s going to make the list of government-approved green purchases for Canadians?
While O’Toole’s proposal would lower the carbon tax rate from $40 per tonne to $20 per tonne at the outset, the carbon tax would increase over time to $50 per tonne, higher than the Trudeau carbon tax today. The only place O’Toole’s tax wins over Trudeau’s is that O’Toole says it won’t go any higher. That’s what the Trudeau Liberals said too. And if O’Toole breaks his pledge and goes ahead with this carbon tax, his word won’t be worth any more than Trudeau’s.
The bottom line is that O’Toole’s plan does nothing to deliver relief to struggling taxpayers who continue to get hammered in their wallets for heating their homes in the winter and driving their kids to soccer practice. In fact, it could well leave them worse off.
Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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