Canada’s provincial and territorial leaders gathered in Halifax to address growing concerns about the federal government’s selective approach to the carbon tax, with a unanimous call for fairness to ensure all provinces are treated equitably.
Premiers from across the nation expressed apprehension over what they view as unequal treatment of Canadians after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a temporary exemption to the federal levy for home heating oil.
The exemption mainly benefits Atlantic Canadians, who typically elect Liberal MPs.
“All this is doing is causing unfairness, making life unaffordable, and really harming the most vulnerable going into the winter season,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said at a press conference Monday.
Eastern premiers were also on the same page as their western counterparts, expressing concern that the carbon tax was further dividing the country and harming unity.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston highlighted the need for fairness and called on Ottawa to ditch the carbon tax completely.
“All Canadians have to heat their homes so I’m sympathetic to the discussion,” he said. “I understand the concerns of my colleagues and I would ask that the federal government address those concerns in a meaningful way that’s fair but ultimately I think they should just get rid of the carbon tax and work with the provinces on something that would actually help to preserve our planet.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also blasted the federal government for their preferential application of the federal levy.
“The issue isn’t the policy; it’s how the policy is being applied. Up until now, it largely has been somewhat fairly applied, but I don’t think anyone can say that today,” said Moe.
“We have said that if the federal government isn’t going to extend that carbon tax pause to other forms of heating, we will extend that pause to folks who use natural gas.”
According to newly elected Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, all governments need to have a united approach to tackling climate change, however, the federal carbon tax is an unrealistic approach given the state of the economy.
“The carbon tax is not a silver bullet… The reality is this during this inflationary moment. Right now, people are suffering,” said Kinew.
“We do think there should be similar consideration given to the people of Manitoba to get us through this period of economic pain.”
Despite these concerns, Trudeau has not convened a full in-person First Ministers’ Meeting since December 2018, although Premiers have made repeated requests. The premiers reiterated their call for a First Ministers’ Meeting to discuss competitiveness and strategic infrastructure.
The premiers also raised concerns about healthcare, infrastructure and the economy at large.