Pierre Poilievre’s ‘axe the tax’ rallies postponed due to wildfires

Natasha Bulowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada’s National Observer

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has cancelled a handful of upcoming events, often billed as anti-carbon tax rallies, in B.C. and Yukon as this year’s historically wildfire season tears through communities.

“Due to the seriousness of the situation,” Poilievre is postponing his upcoming tour of B.C., Sebastian Skamski, Poilievre’s director of media relations, said in a statement posted today. “Our priorities are to support British Columbians fighting these devastating wildfires,” reads the statement.

The Opposition leader was supposed to appear this evening in Campbell River, B.C., for one of his “Bring it Home” rallies, which have repeatedly called on Ottawa to axe the carbon tax, as well as focusing on inflation and housing. Terrace, B.C., was his next scheduled stop on Aug. 23, and Yukon on Aug. 24.

All three have been postponed.

“Due to severe wildfires, and the devastation and disruption they are causing to those affected by emergency evacuation orders, we have made the decision to cancel planned events and postpone them to a future date,” reads an online update for the Yukon rally.

Former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna posted a screenshot of an email telling Conservative party supporters the Yukon “Axe the Tax” rally is postponed until further notice.

“As fires burn and Canadians are displaced across the country, Pierre Poilievre is touring the country saying we don’t need real climate action,” said federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in a Aug. 20 Tweet.

“This isn’t the leadership that Canadians want. It’s shameful.”

Climate change — driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas — is a key factor in increasing wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing more storms and lightning strikes that start fires, hot conditions dry up organic matter into perfect forest fire fuel and arid, windy weather fans the flames.

The federal carbon price creates a financial incentive for businesses and individuals to pollute less by putting a price on each tonne of carbon dioxide, or equivalent greenhouse gases, emitted when fossil fuels are consumed.

“We are still waiting for any kind of climate plan from Pierre Poilievre,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault in an emailed statement to Canada’s National Observer. “While the Conservative party still debates whether climate change is real, the world is on fire,” the statement reads.

“Mr. Poilievre is forced to cancel events due to climate-fuelled catastrophes but he still can’t bring himself to face reality,” said Guilbeault, adding that putting a price on pollution is a key part of the federal government’s plan to “build a country with sustainable jobs, strong communities and thriving natural beauty.”

Poilievre’s team did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

One of Poilievre’s most common talking points is that he will axe Trudeau’s carbon tax if he becomes prime minister. He hammers the carbon price at every opportunity, tying it to the affordability crisis and telling Canadians eliminating it will lower prices.

More frequent storms, extreme weather and heat waves made worse by climate change are capable of causing billions of dollars worth of damage to infrastructure. The cost of rebuilding B.C. after the historic 2021 floods is near $9 billion, according to analysis done by the Globe and Mail.

In 2021, the Canadian Climate Institute found health impacts from climate change could cost Canada’s health-care system billions of dollars and the economy to the tune of tens of billions in coming decades. Shortly after those findings were published, Western Canada experienced an extreme heat wave that killed 619 people between June 25 and July 1, according to the BC Coroners Service.