Trudeau says he doesn’t ‘understand’ NDP position on carbon pricing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he doesn’t “understand” the NDP position on the federal carbon price, specifically on the fuel charge, after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said fighting climate change can’t be done while dividing people.

“I feel for the NDP and for Jagmeet. This is a hard moment. There are political headwinds. There’s a lot of political pressure. I’m certainly feeling it,” Trudeau said Friday at a press conference in Vaughan, Ont.

“So, I don’t entirely understand the position of the NDP in pulling back both from affordability measures and from the fight against climate change.”

Speaking at the Broadbent Institute Progress Summit on Thursday, Singh gave a keynote speech when he criticized the current Liberal approach to pricing pollution, saying that it is dividing Canadians and relying too much on the free market to fix climate change.

“Justin Trudeau has divided Canadians on who pays the cost of fighting it. He doesn’t see fighting the climate crisis as an opportunity to unite us to take on this threat. He sees it as a political wedge,” Singh said.

“He gives exemptions where he wants to buy votes, and he hands out taxpayer-funded subsidies to big polluters. Canadians know that just isn’t fair.”

In October, Trudeau announced a three-year pause on the carbon price of home heating oil, flanked by members of the Atlantic Liberal caucus. While the pause applies nationally, critics argue that it appears politically motivated and disproportionately benefits residents of Atlantic Canada.

This move set off a renewed opposition to the federal carbon price, with seven provinces calling for the April 1 increase to $80 a tonne at least be paused, citing cost of living challenges.

Earlier this week, the NDP supported a Conservative motion to call on Trudeau to have a televised meeting with the premiers to talk about the carbon price, affordability and potential alternatives.

Ahead of the vote, NDP environment critic Laurel Collins criticized the Liberal approach for treating the consumer carbon price as “the be-all and end-all of climate policy.”

In his speech Thursday, Singh said the NDP is working on its own climate plan, with a focus on recognizing regional differences and putting a greater emphasis on industrial carbon pricing.

“We will create affordable, low carbon options – and not punish people who can’t afford to change the way they get to work or heat their homes,” Singh said. “Big polluters will pay more to fight the climate crisis that they caused.”

The NDP leader added climate change also drives up the cost of living, with droughts raising food prices and increased property taxes to repair infrastructure like bridges that can be washed out by floods.

Meanwhile, Trudeau continues to defend the Liberal approach by talking about carbon price rebates.

“We’re going to continue to deliver that money to Canadians and we’re going to continue to stand strong in making sure that pollution isn’t free anywhere across the country,” Trudeau said.

The Canada Revenue Agency is expected to begin distributing the next round of carbon price rebates on Monday in provinces where it applies.

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