Federal and provincial conservatives are waging a campaign attacking the government’s carbon tax that came into effect in four provinces Monday, vowing to fight the initiative they say will make life more expensive.
The federal Tories began their campaign last week. They have been using radio ads, sending text messages, using targeted social media ads and door-to-door canvassing to tell voters that the Conservative Party is committed to scrapping the tax.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters in New Brunswick that his party sent text messages to voters living in the four provinces affected, saying they had one final opportunity to fill up the tank before the cost of gas increased.
Mr. Scheer said the party received positive feedback from people “who appreciated the reminder that they had the opportunity to go out and fill up their tank before having to pay the new carbon tax.”
As of Monday, the Liberal government’s carbon tax took effect in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick, the four provinces that do not have their own pricing plan. The tax kicks in at $20 for each tonne of carbon-dioxide emissions associated with the fuel, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022. It’s expected to immediately add 4.5 cents on a litre of gasoline and 5.5 cents on diesel, rising by 2022 to 11.6 cents and 13.7 cents, respectively.
Drivers in provinces with the new carbon tax did see a spike in gasoline prices, according to GasBuddy, a website that tracks data in North America. In Toronto, the price of regular gasoline on Monday jumped six cents to $1.21 a litre from $1.15 on Sunday. In Regina, the price rose to $1.22 from $1.18. In Winnipeg, prices were $1.18, up from $1.14.
The increases come on the typical rise in gasoline prices each spring, as demand for the commodity climbs ahead of summer, said Gas Buddy analyst Dan McTeague, a former Liberal MP.
Mr. McTeague said the April 1 tax increase, which coincides with the start of Ottawa’s fiscal year, is poorly timed. The average price of gasoline in Canada has already climbed by 20 per cent to about $1.20 a litre in the past month.
“Prices move up in April,” Mr. McTeague said. “April 1 isn’t the best day for these things.” He said prices will keep rising, as in past years.
The federal Liberals have vowed to return every dollar back to the province from which it’s collected. About 90 per cent of the revenue will be directed back to households through a payment that will be delivered annually through individuals’ income-tax returns.
Mr. Scheer, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and a handful of Ontario MPPs posted photos of themselves filling up their gas tanks over the weekend.
“Today’s the last day to fill your gas tank before the federal carbon tax makes life more expensive for your family,” tweeted Mr. Ford, along with a video of himself filling up his tank.
On Monday, Mr. Ford held an event at a Ford car dealership in Toronto to protest the federal tax. Ontario is challenging the tax in court, with hearings set to start in two weeks.
“The Prime Minister tells us that the carbon tax will be good for us. But then I sit back and say, really? Why should anybody believe what he says anymore?” Mr. Ford said. “The truth is clear: You can be for a carbon tax, or you can be for jobs. But you can’t be for both.”
Mr. Ford’s government is also expected to spend millions on taxpayer-funded ads attacking the carbon tax.
“We have to protect the people of Ontario. We’re going to use every tool at our disposal,” Mr. Ford said on Monday when asked about the coming advertising campaign.
Similarly, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs tweeted, “With a carbon tax, everything you buy will be more expensive.” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe wrote that the tax “will cost families & businesses.”
Back in Ottawa, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna tweeted that as of Monday, “it’s no longer free to pollute anywhere in Canada,” adding that the Liberals are putting a price on pollution and working to make life more affordable.
With reports from David Ebner and Laura Stone.