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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Nov. 23.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

While Pierre Poilievre claims that the new, updated Canada-Ukraine free-trade agreement would force Ukraine to adopt a carbon tax, there is a pretty good source that says that is not so: Ukraine.

For some bizarre reason, Mr. Poilievre – a Conservative leader with a 14-point lead in polls who is heading what is supposed to be a government-in-waiting – insists on using that false claim to justify voting against a trade deal that war-weary Ukraine dearly wants.

On Thursday, he ratcheted the falsehood to new heights by arguing that beleaguered Ukrainians are going to have to pay a devastating carbon tax because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has saddled them with it in a trade deal.

“The people of Ukraine are now going to – he expects them to rebuild from a war with a devastating and crippling tax on their energy,” Mr. Poilievre told reporters in Toronto. “The Ukrainian farmers, he expects them to pay a carbon tax while they’re trying to feed their hungry people.”

How sneaky! How heartless!

How untrue.

There is no provision in the agreement that imposes a carbon tax on Ukraine.

There are certainly words about promotion of a carbon price. They say the parties will try to co-operate “bilaterally and in international forums to address matters of mutual interest, as appropriate” on a list of things, including to “promote carbon pricing and measures to mitigate carbon leakage risks.”

That is the sort of vague verbiage inserted into trade agreements around the actual substantive clauses, and trade experts say they don’t bind Ukraine or Canada to a carbon tax.

You know who else says that? Ukraine.

The “modernized CUFTA does not include any specific instruments on decreasing carbon footprint, including specific taxation instruments,” Ukrainian embassy spokesperson Marianna Kulava said in a statement e-mailed to The Globe and Mail’s Steven Chase.

Ordinarily an empty stand on flimsy principle in an opposition vote that won’t have substantive effect – the legislation was passed by the other parties – gets little attention.

In this case, the Conservative unwillingness to bend a symbolic millimetre sacrificed the bigger symbol at stake: unanimous support in Parliament for an agreement with war-torn Ukraine. For Ukraine’s government, the extension of the trade agreement for services and investment was a symbol of economic and moral support.

Still, if Mr. Poilievre was to tell Canadians that his party wanted to register opposition to anything about carbon pricing, even if symbolic, that would be one thing.

Instead, when pressed, Mr. Poilievre resorted to fabricating a picture of devastation wrought upon the poor folk of invaded Ukraine by a carbon-tax requirement that doesn’t exist. He called it “cruel” and “disgusting.”

Politics is, of course, full of less-than-truthful claims. But it’s remarkable how gratuitous this tall tale was. The Liberals alleged that he is engaging in far-right, MAGA-style undermining of commitment to Ukraine, but the Conservative Leader could easily affirm his support in other ways.

The Liberals were quick to note that Mr. Poilievre’s explanation on another issue, offered in the same press conference, was also misleading.

A reporter from The Canadian Press asked if Mr. Poilievre had been responsible in Question Period on Wednesday when he referred to a vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls as terrorism.

Mr. Poilievre said the questioner was wrong, and in fact he had said that media reports had indicated the explosion was terrorism. “Where you are wrong is that CTV had reported that the Government of Canada was presuming that the incident was terrorist,” he said.

But it turned out that CTV hadn’t reported that until after Mr. Poilievre had spoken of media reports of terrorism. Perhaps Mr. Poilievre didn’t want to say that the media organization that at that time had (wrongly) linked the explosion to terrorism was Fox News.

That lapse isn’t the same as making false claims about the Ukraine deal. There were some media reports. And Mr. Poilievre just likes to attack when pressed to explain.

He responded to the CP reporter’s question by remarking, at length and in both official languages, that CP had issued corrections for three “falsehoods” in a single story.

And hey, it’s embarrassing to admit you got things wrong. Just don’t hold your breath for Mr. Poilievre to issue a correction.

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