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People living in rural areas will have to wait for Ottawa's proposed carbon tax relief as the legislation has yet to be passed.Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press

The federal government’s promised carbon price relief for rural Canadians that was slated to start rolling out next week will most likely be delayed because the legislation enabling the changes hasn’t yet passed the House of Commons.

People living in rural areas, who are subject to the federal carbon price, were supposed to start getting a 20-per-cent top-up compared to those in urban areas, in their quarterly payments beginning on Monday. But that was contingent on Bill C-59 passing the House in advance of that – instead it is only about midway through the House process and then still needs to go through the Senate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the increased rural top-up, from the initial 10-per-cent rural supplement last fall, amid broader changes to the federal carbon-pricing regime. The carbon price is applied to households, which then also get a rebate, in all provinces except B.C. and Quebec, which are subject to provincial systems. In October, Mr. Trudeau said the rural top-up would be doubled to reflect the far fewer options rural Canadians have to reduce their emissions.

The minority Liberals are responsible for the legislative agenda but on Tuesday shifted the blame for the slow progress on the bill to the Conservatives.

“It’s not been delayed, it’s been obstructed,” said Liberal House Leader Steve MacKinnon. “The Conservatives will not allow anything to pass the House of Commons that isn’t time allocated.”

“We’re urging them to get out of the way,” he said.

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The rural rebate top-up represents relatively small amounts for individuals living alone, about $20 or $30 each quarter depending on the province they live in. For families, the rebate can add up quickly. For example, a family of four living in rural Alberta would have received $90 more on Monday than their counterpart in Calgary or Edmonton.

Instead, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s spokesperson Katherine Cuplinskas said households will get half the expected amount until the bill passes.

Conservative spokesperson Sebastian Skamski defended his party’s opposition to the bill, and pointed out that the only reason why there is a carbon-price rebate is because the government imposed a carbon price. The Conservatives have steadily increased their pressure campaign against the emissions-reduction policy and on Tuesday, they used their opposition day debate to call on Mr. Trudeau to meet with all premiers and allow them to opt out of the federal carbon price.

“Common sense Conservatives will fight Justin Trudeau’s inflationary budgets and carbon tax increases and couldn’t care less if he and his Liberal MPs have hurt feelings because we are opposing his disastrous economic agenda,” Mr. Skamski said.

He accused the government of “faking outrage” over the slow progress on the bill, noting that the Liberals set the legislative agenda.

The House will vote on the Conservative’s opposition day motion on Wednesday. The NDP was supposed to discuss its position on the motion on Tuesday but abruptly cancelled Leader Jagmeet Singh’s news conference.

In the current minority Parliament, the Liberals need the support of at least one of the three other major parties in the House in order to pass motions that shut down debate on a bill to move it along to the next stage in the legislative process. The NDP often provides this support as part of its parliamentary co-operation arrangement with the Liberals.

NDP deputy leader and Quebec MP Alexandre Boulerice said Tuesday the Conservatives are contradicting themselves by criticizing the carbon tax while delaying progress on legislation that would help offset its costs.

“They are hurting people that they are pretending to defend,” Mr. Boulerice said.

Nova Scotia MP Kody Blois, who was one of the lead Liberal MPs to push the government to change its original carbon-pricing policy, said the bill won’t get passed by Monday but ultimately it will get through sometime this year.

“This will be in place eventually and it will make a difference,” he said. “It is making sure that there’s more equity under a carbon-pricing plan across the country.”

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