The New Democrats are facing political headwinds when it comes to carbon pricing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Friday, but he said he doesn't understand why they're pulling back their support.

The NDP have long been proponents of the climate policy, and even campaigned on it in the 2019 election.

But this week, the party shifted its position, saying carbon pricing is not the "be-all, end-all" and encouraging premiers to come up with new ideas to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Its MPs also backed a non-binding Conservative motion in the House of Commons demanding that Trudeau sit down with provincial and territorial leaders within five weeks to discuss the policy.

"It's not a handful of conservative politicians and premiers that are going to turn me away from continuing the fight against climate change, the fight for a better future and the fight to put more money in people's pockets," Trudeau said Friday in Vaughn, Ont., a city northwest of Toronto.

"So I don't entirely understand the position of the NDP and pulling back from affordability measures and from the fight against climate change."

The Conservatives insist that the carbon price is making life less affordable for Canadians, while the Liberals say rebates from the price on pollution mean most Canadians end up with more money at the end of the day.

Trudeau said the Conservative message seems to be resonating with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

"I feel for the NDP and for Jagmeet. This is a hard moment. There are political headwinds. There's a lot of political pressure," he said.

Trudeau mystified by NDP backtrack on carbon price support. #CarbonTax #NDP #cdnpoli

"I'm certainly feeling it, everyone should be feeling it, by folks out there who are worried about affordability, who are worried about climate change."

But that shouldn't stop the NDP from sticking to its guns on a long-held policy position, Trudeau said.

"I understand the political pressures on the NDP leadership right now and the challenges of holding an unpopular position, but doing the right thing should be something progressive voters in this country can count on."

Singh didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Conservatives argue that Singh is trying to mislead Canadians on his record of supporting the policy.

The Tories have introduced more than 20 motions in the House under leader Pierre Poilievre to scrap the federal carbon price. The NDP voted against all but two of them.

"But now, as Jagmeet Singh’s popularity nosedives and six NDP members of Parliament announced that they are abandoning Singh’s sinking ship, Singh has decided that the carbon tax is hurting Canadians after all," the Conservative party said in a statement Friday.

"It’s clear that Jagmeet Singh is a weak leader who is desperate to run from his own record."

The NDP has made major policy gains as part of its political pact with Trudeau's minority Liberals.

But New Democrats haven't translated wins on national pharmacare or dental-care programs into polling success.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, are eyeing NDP seats in British Columbia and northern Ontario, where their relentless campaigning on cost-of-living issues and the Liberal price on pollution are resonating.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

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It's because after chaining themselves to the LPC and their pitifully inadequate brand of governance without exacting any meaningful concessions re: electoral reform, housing affordability, economic inequality, etc., the NDP now sees the CPC gobbling up their support and is now forced into a sad and stupid state of damage-control.

Serves them right too, as far as I'm concerned, they had YEARS to twist the LPC's arm towards these issues and squandered it.

Instead of sitting back and letting Poilievre dominate the carbon "tax" discussion, the Liberals and NDP need to take the game to the Conservatives. Fight back. Go on the attack.
Don't just defend carbon pricing. Bludgeon Poilievre with his falsehoods, empty rhetoric, and virtual denialism. Expose his "technology" solutions for the foolish and expensive boondoggles they are.

Singh has always been "a nice guy". Nice guys do not stand much chance against attack dogs like Poilievre. Rolling over and showing his submissive tummy to Poilievre is a fatal error.
As I wrote in 2019: "NDP leaders needs to have fire in their belly. Sharp elbows. An unstoppable energy. Fearlessness in the fray. A command of the issues. A genuine authority. Emboldened by a clear vision. Someone who inspires."
Climate and energy have never been Singh's strong point.
Caving in to the Conservatives on this issue is a self-inflicted wound. A political blunder. Many undecided voters will see it as weakness, not a strength.

Singh's weakness now contrasts with Trudeau's resolve on the issue. Singh's flip-flop will rebound to the Liberals' advantage.
The Liberals can't give up now. Ceding victory to Poilievre is conceding defeat in the next election. The Liberals have nothing to gain by surrendering on carbon pricing. They will have to fight the next election on climate action, including carbon pricing. Preferably, at the height of wildfire season.

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. Opening the door to total defeat on climate policy in Canada.
Hold your ground, Liberals.

The NDP are rudderless and now are caving in to Poilievre falsehoods. It's long overdue that the Liberals and NDP went on the offensive.