Federal environment minister, Ontario premier spar over carbon tax ahead of April 1 changes

Premier Doug Ford railed against federal climate action at a press conference in Cambridge, Ont., on Wednesday, but did not reveal any new policies or plans surrounding environmental planning.

In October, the federal Liberal government promised to levy a carbon tax on fuels in provinces and territories that didn’t implement an adequate emissions pricing plan of their own.

That tax comes into effect April 1.

To offset that, the feds have offered an annual rebate directly to Canadian families on their income tax.

Ford reiterated his issues with the carbon tax on Wednesday, saying that low and middle-income seniors, families and small businesses would have to pay for the tax.

“It will drive up the cost of gas in your car. Home heating bills will go up,” he said. “You can be for jobs or you can be for carbon tax, but you can’t be for both.”

But federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna fired back shortly after the press conference, saying Ford isn’t accepting evidence that a carbon tax works.

“I don’t know why they don’t accept the evidence, the clear evidence that you can see from British Columbia: their price on pollution works. That the evidence shows you can foster cleaner solutions, that you can give more money back to the people, that you can create good jobs,” McKenna told CBC News.

Ford said there was a risk of a carbon tax recession and the transportation sector would suffer.

“You don’t need to punish the people of Ontario and Canada when we’re hitting our targets,” he said.

In November, Ford unveiled a “Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan,” that included a fund that uses public money to entice companies to reduce emissions.

McKenna said putting a price on pollution creates good jobs and said clean solutions are a $26-trillion industry.

“If you want good jobs, if you want to grow your economy and position for the future, if you want to make life affordable, then the way we’ve approached putting a price on pollution is exactly that,” she said.

As for fuel costs, she said the federal government anticipates the price of gas will rise by about four cents due to the tax, “which is less than you would see the movement of gas prices sometime in a weekend or in a day.”

‘The new front of climate denial’: Schreiner

Green Party MPP Mike Schreiner immediately responded with a release, questioning why the premier spent money “campaign against solutions to the climate crisis,” while families who have children with autism are asking for more funding.

Prior to the announcement, about 20 people gathered outside to protest changes to the Ontario Autism Program, holding signs that said their children deserved a fair chance as well as access to proven therapies.

“We need to call this out for what it is: the new front of climate denial that defies everything experts, scientists, economists and business leaders are telling us,” Schreiner said in an emailed statement.

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