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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons following Question Period on Parliament Hill in Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, September 17, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair speaks to reporters in the Foyer of the House of Commons following Question Period on Parliament Hill in Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, September 17, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Conservatives call it a carbon tax. NDP call it cap and trade. Which is it? Add to ...

The federal Conservatives who were, by their own standards, relatively gentle with the opposition New Democrats throughout the spring have returned to the fall sitting with their messaging set on “carbon tax” and specifically the NDP’s alleged support for such a levy.

The New Democrats deny they have ever favoured such a tax – though they do argue for a cap-and-trade system to force polluters to pay for their carbon output. But an NDP news release issued Monday saying the Conservatives just “love to lie about carbon taxes” did nothing to stop the onslaught.

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House Leader Peter Van Loan started the volley off early in the day, lamenting at a morning news conference about what he said was the NDP’s desire to impose the tax. Tory MPs, including Shelly Glover of Manitoba, Andrew Saxton of British Columbia, and John Williamson of New Brunswick, carried on the attack during the period set aside for member’s statements.

“Hard-working Canadians across the country will suffer if the NDP bring forward a job-killing carbon tax that will increase the price on everything,” said Mr. Williamson, apparently forgetting that his government will be in power for at least the next three years.

And then it was over to Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the daily Question Period.

When NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair asked what specific actions has the Prime Minister taken in the last three months to protect the Canadian economy and protect Canadian jobs, Mr. Harper replied that Canada is one of the few islands of economic stability in the developed world and “Canadians and people across the globe know we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20-billion carbon tax.”

Of course, in their own 2008 election platform, Mr. Harper's Conservatives promised to "develop and implement a North-American-wide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015."

The next question from Mr. Mulcair about the fragile state of the economic recover brought a similar response from Mr. Harper. “We try to keep industries open, not try to shut them down,” he said. “That is why we lower taxes. We do not raise them as the leader of the NDP proposes.”

And when Linda Duncan, the New Democrat MP from Alberta, asked why the government has not met its promises to report how much it has spent on advertising over the last two years, it was Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s turn. The advertising report will come in due course, said Mr. Clement but “it is a fact that that party on the other side, her party, wanted to impose an additional $20-billion on taxpayers throughout this country through its carbon tax scheme.”

During the last election campaign, the New Democrats under former leader Jack Layton said, if elected, they would raise up to $7.4-billion a year through a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse emissions. Mr. Layton denied that the measure amounted to a carbon tax, but companies that emit carbon would have to pay for it.After the Question Period was over, Mr. Mulcair said he considers a carbon tax to be regressive, though he reaffirmed his party’s support for cap and trade. But the NDP’s number one priority is the economy, said Mr. Mulcair, while “the fact of the matter is the Conservatives’ number one priority is making stuff up about the NDP.”

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