Carbon tax increase met with peaceful protests

Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator

April 1 meant increases to the much maligned carbon tax, increasing from $65 to $80 per tonne. The increase was met with protests across the country, including a large number of people gathered along the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border, illustrating their disapproval of the rate hike.

“My reaction is the same as about 70 per cent of Canadians, 70 per cent of our premiers,” said Yorkton-Melville MP, Cathay Wagantall. “And the reaction is, this is not reasonable at this point in time, or in relation to the reality of the economic struggles Canadians are facing because of his (Justin Trudeau’s) other measures as well.”

Wagantall credited the many peaceful demonstrations held on April 1 and how people were making their voices heard.

“I’m really proud of the efforts right across this nation of Canadians to voice their concerns on so many issues,” she said. “In the midst of all the challenges that they’re facing, plus just carrying on with the normal challenges of raising a family and getting to and from work.”

Wagantall noted the reaction was not simply relegated to the April 1 increase, but also what is to come next. Projections are for the per tonne amount to rise by $15 annually until it reaches the $170 mark in 2030.

“But the truth of the matter is, it’s impacting everything that they buy, because of the compounding of the carbon tax through the processes of getting food from the farm to the table,” said Wagantall. “And that’s at this point in time. Just the thought of it going up every year now, carrying on like this, there isn’t the alternatives that are reasonable in the midst of shutting down our economy at the same time.”

Just across the border to the east, MP for Brandon-Souris, Larry Maguire, says the effects of the tax have already been noted in his riding.

“We’ve already seen the real-world impact of high prices in our own backyard,” he said. “In Brandon, the Samaritan House food bank gave out nearly 36,000 hampers last year, a dramatic increase of 12,000, which was 50 per cent above their normal annual average.”

While proponents of the carbon pricing idea point to rebates that many Canadians receive also on the rise, Maguire is not convinced those quarterly returns will help.

“Justin Trudeau hiked his carbon tax by 23 per cent on April 1, leaving Manitoba families on the hook for an additional $1,750 in carbon taxes this year,” he said. “At a time when folks are already struggling, families can expect even higher costs on everything from gas to groceries.”

Pricing carbon pollution is touted as an effective way to reduce greenhouse gases believed to contribute to climate change. The carbon tax was put in place to “create a financial incentive for people and businesses to pollute less.” A price on carbon pollution has been set in every jurisdiction across the country since 2019, with each province and territory able to design its own pricing system tailored to local needs. 

However, in Saskatchewan, the provincial government has come under fire after removing the carbon tax from home heating on residential bills since Jan. 1, 2024.

Premier Scott Moe spoke on the carbon tax during a recent federal committee meeting, raising concerns and reiterating his view to axe the tax entirely.

“I really appreciated what Premier Moe said when he was the operations committee,” Wagantall remarked. “He said, ‘well if you’re going to go by our population to determine our environmental standard, you better do the same then for our financial output for this country’.”

One example of the provincial forward-thinking on reducing pollution that Wagantall pointed to was switching from oil heat to natural gas more than two decades ago. The decision was not forced by a political hand at the federal level, rather “just the sensible thing to do.”

Maguire also repeated his stance that throwing money at the problem isn’t going to solve the pollution problem.

“A couple weeks ago, Liberal and NDP MPs had the chance to vote for a common sense Conservative motion to axe the tax, but they refused. This despite the fact that 70 per cent of Canadians and 70 per cent of provincial premiers oppose the carbon tax increase,” he said. “Canadians facing hardship need relief, not higher taxes. Only Conservatives are committed to standing up for struggling Canadians by axing the carbon tax, for everyone, everywhere, for good.”