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The parade of right-leaning politicians passing through Canadian cities to campaign against federal plans to make polluters pay continued on Tuesday as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer became the latest visitor to what has become an anti-carbon tax war room at Queen's Park.
Scheer's visit with Ontario Premier Doug Ford came one day after a visit from Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Both Ford and Scheer said their only plan was "getting rid of Justin Trudeau."
The spectacle follows a recent visit to Calgary by Ford who joined Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney for a "stop the carbon tax" rally.
Ford introduced Scheer as “the next prime minister of Canada," emphasizing that Scheer's electoral success was the only way to defeat the federal Liberal government's plan to put a price on carbon to tackle climate change.
Both men then proceeded to play fast and loose with the facts about a carbon tax.
“The carbon tax (is) the worst tax ever,” the premier told reporters, without providing any evidence to back up his claims.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to impose a carbon tax on the four provinces that have failed to introduce policies that meet a minimum federal standard to ensure that polluters are paying., while issuing rebates to residents as compensation for the extra charges they paid when they purchase fossil fuels. Trudeau made the announcement last week in Ford's Toronto riding.
While both Ford and Scheer have the same reasons to oppose the carbon tax — that it would "raise the cost for commuters" and was "a cash grab" for the Liberal government that "wouldn't do anything for the environment" — neither was able to speak to the specifics of their own plans to reduce pollution, choosing instead to take misleading shots at the federal carbon pricing plan.
"I think the prime minister’s own policies are the biggest threat to Justin Trudeau," Scheer told reporters after his meeting with Ford. "The fact that he is ramming through a carbon tax that Canadian’s don’t want, nobody’s buying his math."
While Scheer and Ford's rhetoric have become popular in some circles, their message is inaccurate.
Advocacy and industry groups as well as residents across Canada have come out in support for the Liberal carbon tax, including the Business Council of Canada, which represents over 150 leading private-sector enterprises.
“We support the price mechanism because it provides the economic incentive for consumers to change their behaviour and for businesses to invest in technologies that progressively reduce their emissions over time,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said in a statement.
The statement also noted that "the government’s approach recognizes that money collected through carbon levies needs to go back to businesses and consumers to ensure that Canada’s economy stays strong."
Scheer also misleadingly told Queen's Park reporters that the Liberal government's carbon pricing plan won't reduce emissions because "they have granted a massive exemption to large emitters."
"Those industries in Canada that are responsible for a significant percentage of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions will not face the full cost of this but hard working moms and dads commuters who drive to work, they will," Scheer said. "So this is not an environmental plan. It is a revenue plan that’s designed at getting more cash from the economy. It’s a tax on small and medium sized businesses."
This is not entirely true. The federal government has committed to initiating the carbon tax on big emitters on Jan. 1 but details on the emissions targets for these emitters and how much revenue it expects or how the money will be spent are still being finalized. Jurisdictions such as Quebec also regulate large emitters as part of the national pan-Canadian framework on climate change that was announced in December 2016.
The federal government previously wasn't going to intervene with measures in Ontario since it also had a plan to regulate the largest polluters until Ford was elected and scrapped it all.
The federal government has also acknowledged small and medium businesses may incur additional costs because of the carbon pricing plan, but also said it would create a reimbursement fund for those companies. Details for this will be released in early 2019.
Scheer told reporters he has “always believed climate change is real” and is a cause of human behaviour added that he was encouraged by the inclusion of provincial leaders like Ford and Moe in the battle against Trudeau's carbon pricing plan.
"We are aligned on this," he said. "We are on the same side and on the same page so it makes sense that we work together."
Queen's Park set to officially cancel cap and trade
Ford and Scheer met as Queen's Park inches closer to passing Bill 4, that would officially cancel the cap and trade program. A final vote is expected Wednesday.
This leaves Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers concerned. Des Rosiers sent Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips a written question last week asking for details about where the money that has been collected so far by the cap and trade program will go after the cancellation and which programs will be most affected. Initially the over $1 billion fund was set aside for measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; Des Rosiers worried the money would be used to fund the Ford government's $30 million lawsuit against the federal carbon tax or compensation for companies impacted by the cancellation.
Des Rosiers said she received a briefing on Tuesday from a member of the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks that revealed little, except that it seems the ministry is leaning towards using the funds for compensation.
"It's distressing that money that was supposed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is now going to be used to pay administrative costs and compensation costs," she said. "It's not reducing greenhouse gas emissions anymore. I think there is a change of purpose and that is worrisome."
"I think we're in the worst of all worlds right now," she told National Observer on Tuesday. "We have uncertainty and we're probably going to have the carbon tax without the benefit of what the cap and trade system had."
In preparation for the final debate on Bill 4, Green Party of Ontario Leader and Guelph MPP, Mike Schreiner sent out an email asking people what message they would like to send to Premier Ford about climate action. He received 3000 emails in less than a day.
“I heard from mothers and fathers genuinely afraid about bringing children into this world. I heard from professionals and scientists shocked the government is blatantly ignoring the facts. And I heard from the elderly, gravely concerned about what their grandchildren would endure in 10 or 20 years due to our government’s inaction," Schreiner said in a statement. "From the 3000 responses I’ve received, Ontarians are ashamed the Ford government is abandoning responsibility on climate action."
The results of the government's public consultation on Bill 4 haven't yet been released. A ministry spokesperson told National Observer in an email that a summary of the comments received and how they were considered in the making of the bill and the climate plan expected next month will be publicly released in due course.
The public consultation on Ontario's climate action plan is open till November 16.