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An anxious-looking Andrew Scheer filled up his car presumably at an Ottawa gas station last Sunday and urged other Canadians to do the same.

“Remember to fill up tonight! Justin Trudeau’s Carbon Tax kicks in tomorrow, which will make everything from driving your kids to school, to heating your home, to your groceries more expensive,” the Conservative Leader tweeted.

Mr. Scheer – and anyone who followed his advice – saved roughly two dollars with a last-minute trip to the gas station. The federal carbon tax, which went into effect April 1 in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, added about 4.5 cents a litre to the price of gasoline.

To really maximize his savings, Mr. Scheer should also have dropped his kids at school a day early and picked up a loaf of bread on the way home.

Similar photo stunts were replicated dozens of times across Canada as Conservative politicians launched a co-ordinated attack on the federal tax imposed in the four provinces that don’t already have some form of carbon pricing.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was also out on Sunday, pumping gas into a small SUV. Too bad Mr. Ford never got that over-sized custom police van he wanted – the one with the reclining leather sofa, mini-fridge, 32-inch TV and swivel chairs. That gas guzzler would surely have had a massive tank to stockpile cheaper gas.

Making a boogeyman of Mr. Trudeau and exaggerating the pain of the carbon tax may be good theatre.

Unfortunately, Mr. Scheer, Mr. Ford and the others will wind up on the wrong side of history on this one. Putting a price on carbon is widely regarded by economists and policy experts as the lowest cost and most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Carbon taxes work. Economist Don Drummond and researcher Brendan Frank argue in a blog post for Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission that U.S. taxes on sulfur in the 1980s, and more recently on carbon in British Columbia and various Asian and European countries have all cut emissions.

“Even at low prices like the ones in B.C., carbon pricing is bending the curve without any significant impact on jobs or economic growth,” they wrote.

Most Canadians won’t feel the sting of the new federal carbon tax, either. In the four provinces where the tax is in effect, people will get a rebate, which for most will exceed the added cost of the tax. Consumers can save even more money by cutting their energy use, which is exactly the point of a carbon tax.

The warning this week from federal scientists that Canada’s climate is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world is a call to action for governments everywhere. The country is experiencing more extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, rapidly thinning glaciers, rising seas levels and retreating areas of permafrost, according to a climate change report released by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Even Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, this week urged countries to embrace carbon taxes. Shell says it’s pulling out of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers because its climate policies are no longer in sync with its own, while putting pressure on the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers to take a more forceful public stance.

With a federal election less than seven months away, it remains to be seen if Mr. Scheer’s anti-carbon tax campaign is good politics. Polls suggest more Canadians support carbon taxes than oppose them, but views vary widely depending on age, gender and where people live. And Canadians will no doubt have other issues on their minds when they vote.

But it’s disingenuous of Mr. Scheer and Mr. Ford to lash out at the carbon tax, without offering even a hint of how they would combat global warming.

Mr. Scheer has promised a “comprehensive” plan that includes scrapping the current tax, but has carefully avoided providing any details. Mr. Ford has already cancelled Ontario’s cap-and-trade system.

Having no plan is like saying global warming either doesn’t matter, or it isn’t happening.

And rushing to fill up with gas last Sunday was a cheap stunt designed to avoid talking about what really matters.

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