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Anti-carbon tax protesters wave signs and chant slogans as they block a westbound lane of the Trans Canada Highway near Cochrane, Alta., on April 1.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

Andrew Furey of Newfoundland and Labrador, the only provincial Liberal premier in Canada, implored Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to pause the April 1 increase in the carbon tax. Wab Kinew, the new NDP Premier of Manitoba, said his province should be exempted completely, as did conservative premiers from Nova Scotia to Alberta. The increase went ahead nonetheless.

Yes, political calculation is part of the provincial opposition to the carbon tax. But the premiers speak for the people of their provinces. And polls show most people want the carbon tax to stop going up.

The premiers are urging Mr. Trudeau to convene an emergency first-ministers meeting. Some supporters of carbon pricing say he should accept, in the hopes that the Prime Minister can rally public support to fight global warming.

The meeting couldn’t hurt, but it’s unlikely to help, either. In the face of so much opposition, the carbon tax’s prospects appear bleak.

If you believe that global warming caused by human activity poses a grave threat to our future (and you should), if you believe that Canada has an obligation to do its part in the fight to reduce carbon emissions (and you should), and if you agree with the slew of economists who insist carbon pricing is the most efficient way to reduce emissions (and you should), then you should support the carbon tax.

The problem is that any policy based on a string of ifs is vulnerable to changing circumstances that can shift public opinion. And in a time of high interest rates, stubborn inflation and little or no economic growth, Canadians don’t want to see their taxes going up, rebates or no rebates.

A few years ago, Canadians appeared more worried about climate change than about the cost of the carbon tax. Today, the opposite appears to be true.

Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who leads in the polls in part because of his opposition to the tax, sent a letter Sunday to Mr. Trudeau, demanding that the Liberal government support an unamended version of a private member’s bill that would offer farmers partial relief.

“Struggling families can’t afford higher taxes and more inflationary spending that drives up the cost of everything and keeps interest rates high,” Mr. Poilievre wrote.

Mr. Trudeau will, of course, ignore the letter. But he must know that his government’s environmental policies have become a political millstone. Still he perseveres in trying to convince Canadians that the tax is good for the environment and the rebates offset the costs. He did permit an exemption for home heating oil to placate Atlantic Canadian MPs, but in the main he is fighting the good fight.

He is even willing to take on Ontario Premier Doug Ford, which is a great political risk, given that the same voters in that province supported Mr. Trudeau’s party in 2021 and Mr. Ford’s party in 2022.

“Ontario actually started a cap-and-trade program,” Mr. Trudeau reminded people last week. “It was scrapped by Doug Ford when he first got elected.”

This is true, but polls report that Mr. Ford right now is more popular among Ontario voters than Mr. Trudeau. Relations between the Liberal Prime Minister and the Progressive Conservative Premier, initially frosty, improved during the COVID-19 pandemic and in their joint pursuit of auto-sector jobs.

But they are deteriorating again: over federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s claims that Ottawa won’t fund carbon-intensive infrastructure such as highways, and over the perennial irritant of the carbon tax.

“This carbon tax has to go, or in a year and a half, the Prime Minister’s going. It’s as simple as that,” Mr. Ford said last week.

Mr. Trudeau’s commitment to the carbon tax as part of a suite of measures aimed at combatting global warming is admirable. In the face of widespread political opposition and waning public support, he is sticking to what he believes is the best course. Such courage and dedication to principle are qualities people say they want to see in political leaders.

Unless, of course, they don’t like the principle to which the political leader is dedicated. That’s the situation right now.

So go ahead, Mr. Trudeau, take on the premiers at a first-ministers meeting. At this point, what have you got to lose?

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