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Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie says if she is premier after the 2026 election, she will not introduce a provincial carbon tax. Ms. Crombie stands with Ontario Liberal caucus members as she talks to the media in Toronto on Dec. 5, 2023.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie says she won’t impose a provincial carbon tax if she wins the next election, as her party distanced itself from a federal policy that is also facing pushback from most premiers across the country.

Ms. Crombie announced Monday that the provincial Liberals, currently third place in the legislature, has launched an expert panel about climate action to lead consultations for the 2026 election platform. But for the first time since becoming leader earlier this year, she said that plan won’t include a carbon tax.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly attacked Ms. Crombie on the issue, calling her “queen of the carbon tax” because of her time as a Liberal MP from 2008 to 2011, and alleging she would bring in a provincial pricing scheme if she were to form government. Ms. Crombie previously said she would study the issue, but did not rule it out until this week.

She did not specifically comment on the federal plan, which imposes consumer carbon pricing on provinces that do not implement their own pricing system, such as through a tax or a cap-and-trade system.

“Ontario Liberals will have the most innovative, aggressive plan for climate action this province has ever seen,” Ms. Crombie said in a video posted to social media on Monday.

“We will ensure major polluters pay, but our climate action plan will also save families’ money. Let me be very clear: a carbon tax will not be part of my plan.”

Instead, Ms. Crombie said she wants “robust action” on building public transit, investing in electric-vehicle infrastructure, reforming land-use planning, decarbonizing the energy grid, and helping homes become more energy efficient. The six-person panel is chaired by Liberal MPP Mary-Margaret McMahon, the party’s environment critic.

Ontario to require referendum on any future ‘carbon tax’ plan

Ms. Crombie, who does not hold a seat in the legislature, did not do interviews on Monday. But members of her party told reporters at Queen’s Park that the federal carbon pricing plan suffers from miscommunication.

“It hasn’t been communicated clearly to people. And so at a time when people are feeling a lot of pressure, this has become the focus of the affordability crisis,” said Liberal MPP John Fraser, the party’s parliamentary leader.

Ms. McMahon accused the Progressive Conservatives of using carbon pricing as a distraction, noting it is in place because the Ford government killed the previous Liberal cap-and-trade system. But she said people don’t necessarily understand how it works.

“They don’t understand the purpose, the history of it, what it accomplishes. So we’re looking at creating a great plan with a great group of people,” she said.

The Progressive Conservatives called on Ms. Crombie to disavow the federal carbon pricing regime, which is set to go up by $15 on April 1, from $65 to $80 a tonne. “What’s her position on the federal carbon tax, that the federal Liberal government is imposing on people?” Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Last week, Canada’s only remaining Liberal premier called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop his planned carbon price hike next month, saying its increase would compound the affordability crisis that his constituents and all Canadians are facing. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey joined Conservative premiers in speaking out.

The federal charge is applied in all provinces except British Columbia and Quebec, which have their own provincial carbon-pricing systems.

And two candidates vying for NDP leadership in Alberta have also spoken out against carbon pricing, with leadership hopefuls Rakhi Pancholi and Sarah Hoffman opposing it and Kathleen Ganley saying support for the pricing scheme is gone. Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who is also in the running, did not have a comment, a spokesperson said.

Kaitlin Power, a spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, defended the plan, which Mr. Trudeau recently said is the “right thing” to do for the environment and also puts more money back in most people’s pockets by way of rebates.

“Carbon pricing is effective and ours is designed with affordability front and centre,” Ms. Power said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court of Canada has made clear the federal government can regulate a consistent national price on pollution. Like with all provinces and territories, we are open to collaborating on the best path forward for each jurisdiction on their systems for both their consumer fuels and heavy industry.”

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