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The federal carbon tax took a beating from polar opposite sides of the political spectrum this week at annual conservative and progressive conferences held just blocks from each other in Ottawa.

In an address to participants at the Broadbent Institute’s annual Progress Summit on Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told his progressive grassroots base the party is charting a path away from carbon pricing.

Singh’s comments came one day after the NDP and the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of a Conservative motion calling on the prime minister to convene a televised “emergency carbon tax” meeting with premiers who are railing against the climate policy.

Conservatives have been hammering the Liberals on carbon pricing since Pierre Poilievre took the helm of the federal Conservative party and captured the imagination of Canada’s conservative movement.

Poilievre kept up the carbon tax criticism in his keynote address at the Canada Strong and Free Conference, an annual gathering of right-leaning politicians and their supporters.

But while Singh acknowledged the need for progress to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global heating, Poilievre only referenced climate change once in his speech while taking a swipe at the carbon price.

“I believe that we should fight to protect our environment and combat climate change with technology and not taxes,” said Poilievre to a packed room.

Poilievre briefly elaborated on the common conservative refrain “technology, not taxes” by presenting nuclear power — CANDU reactors and small modular reactors — as “the best way to add zero-emitting baseload electricity across our country.” Power from B.C. and Quebec’s hydroelectric dams can power liquefied natural gas operations and facilitate more LNG exports overseas, said Poilievre.

Singh made it clear his move against the carbon tax is not an abdication of climate policy. “We will create affordable low-carbon options and not punish people who can't afford to change the way they get to work or heat their homes,” Singh said.

In an address to participants at the Broadbent Institute’s annual Progress Summit on Thursday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told his progressive grassroots base that the party is charting a path away from carbon pricing. 

Carbon pricing, effectively a fuel charge, will be responsible for an estimated eight to 14 per cent reduction of Canada’s emission cuts by 2030, according to a report by the Canadian Climate Institute.

Alex Cool-Fergus, government relations lead for Climate Action Network, told Canada’s National Observer by phone that it's a mistake to tone down carbon pricing given that the majority of people receive more in rebates than they are taxed on.

Premiers smell blood in the water on the policy, she said, calling the Bloc’s move to vote with the NDP and Conservatives as “cynical” given Quebec has its own carbon pricing system.

“It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the urgency of the climate emergency and the fact that by spending time doing political theatre is time that we’re wasting,” she said.

However, on the Progress Summit conference floor, some think progressives should not head for the lifeboats on the sinking consumer carbon-pricing ship. Marie-Marguerite Sabongui, who runs a climate disinformation children’s channel, Lil D’Bunk, is among them.

“I think we have talked about different tools for so long and have let perfect be the enemy of the good for a very long time,” she said. “I think in this case, we can take a thing and improve it.”

Sabongui thinks the NDP can find a way forward that doesn’t put everyday people against carbon pricing and “step into this landmine that the Conservatives are planting.”

The federal NDP is taking a gamble on what Singh calls a “focus on building unity with working people,” Singh said to reporters following the keynote address. Singh took shots at Ottawa for saying yes to big oil and gas and no to Canadians trying to make better choices for the planet and their wallets.

“That is not the way to build consensus and solidarity that we need to take on this fight,” he said.

Dave Bulmer, president and chief executive officer of AMAPCEO, Ontario’s professional employees union, told Canada’s National Observer that he thinks the current bedrock support for the NDP is in downtown urban cores like Toronto, where he lives. Those supporters are often passionate about addressing climate by curbing emissions and fossil fuels.

But there is also a traditional working-class NDP voter, “the small guy who could be the truck driver” living further afield, who objects to the carbon tax, said Bulmer. Bulmer thinks a shift from carbon pricing to a more industrial-focused policy “aligns with their democratic politics.”

The NDP, like other parties, has different wings that can sometimes oppose each other and complicate things, like the working class living outside city centres and young, urban-dwelling progressives, he explained. Bulmer acknowledged the difficult circumstance the party finds itself in, given the unpopularity of the policy. Bulmer attributes this to the Conservatives’ “axe the tax” campaign.

Bulmer is interested to see if Poilievre will even have a climate policy beyond his carbon tax rhetoric because right now, “there is no plan.”

“I don’t know if Trudeau and Singh will be able to get him to speak to [climate] beyond what he does right now, which is just a show,” Bulmer said.

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I think that the argument against the carbon tax is very weak, since it is mostly revenue neutral.. but tax is a four-letter word in the minds of most Canadians. I wonder if it isn't past time for the government to promote ways in which Canadians can save money and contribute to fighting climate change at the same time. For instance, I wonder how many houses have what were once called "mid-efficiency furnaces" exhausting through chimneys on their roof-tops.
I also wonder a bit about whether some exemption might be in order for farmers, who by necessity have to live in rural areas.. it is a matter of national security that we keep them in business.

You are right that tax is a four letter word in Canada, even for “progressive” parties. That’s one reason political discussions in Canada are so relentlessly childish.

Surely it would be better to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry - including never buying pipelines - stop the tax breaks for logging, end flow through shares for mining and absolutely require funds upfront for proper clean up rather than leaving it for taxpayers.

How many fossil fuel projects would simply not be viable without subsidies, for instance? Clear-cutting leads to floods and loss of old-growth forests, coal mining emits stunning amounts of methane.

Instead use the money to encourage living smaller but better, eating food produced closer to home, a culture that satisfies without constant flying, community. The list goes on. Thought, not taxes, not handing an election to Trump-like Conservatives.

Canadian governments, especially the Liberals, put the onus on individuals, rather than corporations...but then Canada has a history of being in bed with industry. Rethink....

Caving in to the Conservatives. Waving a white flag before the O&G industry. Tossing away one of the best tools for reducing emissions. Pandering to ignorance.
A sign of weakness, not strength.
Bad public policy. Political cowardice.

Singh: “We will create affordable low-carbon options and not punish people who can't afford to change the way they get to work or heat their homes."
The federal carbon levy with rebate is a progressive policy that puts more $ in the pockets of 80% of households.
If affordability is the issue, how can you oppose climate policy that protects modest-income households — and on the fiscal side (rebate – fuel charges) leaves 80% of households ahead after rebate?

Various levels of government offer support programs for home retrofits: the Canada Greener Homes Initiative; the federal/provincial Oil to Heat Pump Affordability Program.
These programs can be expanded and improved to help more Canadians buy a heat pump.
Not a reason to abandon carbon pricing.

Under pressure from the Conservatives in rural ridings, at a single blow Singh is ceding the field to them on carbon pricing.
If you hand Conservatives the victory on carbon pricing, do you think they will stop there? No, they will just proceed to attack the next carbon policy, and the one after that.
Singh is opening the door to total defeat on climate policy in Canada.
Cowards!

And that begs the question about just who are we supposed to vote for?

I’d like to see a comparison between the annual cost to the nation arising from forest fires and flooding (add cost to health if possible) and the annual profit of corporations (including banks) arising from oil extraction in Canada. Costs being borne by many vs profits accrued by a few.

There are hardly any people in Canada, rich or poor, urban or rural, who can't benefit from the current carbon pricing system with some minor efforts or changes in behaviour. To suggest otherwise is simply dishonest. Those who wrongly believe that carbon pricing hurts them need to be educated, not catered to.

I've recently abandoned my long-standing support for the federal NDP in favour of the Liberals, as they're the only significant federal party who is dealing honestly with the issue of, and solutions to, climate change. I think the NDP sees how successful the CPC is being in embracing dishonesty, and is now deciding to follow suit. I'm not interested in supporting dishonesty, even if it comes from those who I suspect mostly have similar goals to myself.

I don't understand what the NDP is doing, this is antithetical to their platform. The stance they are taking, makes no sense considering low and medium income households do very well under the pollution pricing system. I think he has gone a bridge too far in distancing from the Liberals and it will be Singhs downfall. Honestly I am really appreciating Trudeau's approach of not caving and actually LEADING. Politicians are expected to change position depending on what will deliver the most votes and so far I am glad the liberals are at least showing they actually have conviction!!

In one respect Poilievre is right. Technology is a valid solution.

But Poilievre is dead wrong if he believes technology in the form of CCUS and LNG infrastructure will accomplish anything outside of creating a limited number of jobs while enriching debt holders.

In 2014 Tony Seba and the smart people at his ReThink X think tank started predicting how renewable energy tecnology will overtake fossil fuels, mainly on proficiency and price, and cause disruption.

Here we are. The great disruption has begun. Don't believe folks like Seba alone. Just look at the evidence uncovered by the IEA and other organizations with their eyes open on the world economy and fingers tapping on their calculators.

The latest ReThink prognostication was on the powerful disruptive potential of batteries that are now moving quickly into using commonplace materials, the ease of scaling up, full lifespan recycling, greater energy density per weight, better all weather performance, and, most importantly, prices that outcompete fossil fuels and nuclear.

Batteries in the grid will become far more important than batteries for EVs, but that process is evolutionary because it takes time.

Canadian fossil fuels will in no doubt see demand for its products decrease -- perhaps in giant steps, perhaps in an insidious gentle slide -- in its export markets. It won't matter who will occupy the big chair in Ottawa. The future is inevitable.

When historians look into the dirty past they'll be wondering why so many powerful people put so much faith for so long into a sector that generated little more than 8% of the national wealth on even its best days.