Canada

‘Not a tax at all’: O’Toole on party’s carbon price loyalty program

OTTAWA —
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pushing back against criticism by some that a key pillar of the party’s new climate plan is akin to a carbon tax, a Liberal-instituted policy he has long criticized.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, O’Toole says the party’s proposed carbon pricing mechanism is “not a tax at all” because money is not collected by the government.

“Well I’ve always been consistent on wanting to eliminate Mr. Trudeau’s carbon tax, and that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “The low carbon savings account we’ve proposed will be kept by consumers, not one cent goes to government.”

As opposed to the current rebate system, the Conservatives have pitched to create an industry-led program that accumulates funds based on individual fuel consumption, which Canadians can then use on environmentally-friendly purchases like a bicycle or transit pass.

“This will not be a government-run program, it will be something that we view the industry doing in a similar way that the financial services industry developed and innovated with the Interac system, which people use far more now than then traditional old currency,” said O’Toole.

“This will be an account that is then tracked, it will not be big government, it will be actually run in a similar fashion to a loyalty-type program.”

He said Canadians will be able to monitor their carbon footprint in their personalized accounts and make decisions to reduce it.

“I hear all the time from all parties on the spectrum saying every Canadian needs to take their role in a climate change plan. This allows that through full transparency, and for people to have their low carbon savings account and make smart decisions,” O’Toole said.

The Conservative plan sets the consumer carbon charge at $20-per-tonne, increasing to a maximum of $50-per-tonne over time. This is down from the current Liberal plan which starts at $40-per-tonne and rises to $170-per-tonne by 2030.

Asked whether the Conservatives would match the government’s backstop program, whereby provinces that don’t have their own approved carbon-pricing mechanism must apply Ottawa’s formula, O’Toole only said they will work in partnership with the provinces and territories on this.

“We’re going to talk to them about how we can meet those emission targets and Conservatives are generally much more collaborative with the provinces than the Liberal Party is and that’s going to be my approach. I’ve put out a plan, people are getting used to it,” O’Toole said.

Other provisions of the plan include a renewable gas mandate, requiring that 15 per cent of fuel consumption outside of the oil and gas sector be from renewable sources by 2030, and the implementation of a zero-emissions vehicle mandate, requiring that 30 per cent of passenger vehicles sold be electric or hydrogen fuel cell by the same time.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday weighed in on the Conservative approach, which he argued is not a “plan” and will make life more expensive for Canadians, while making it cheaper to pollute.

“Canadians have been waiting a long time to see the Conservative Party take seriously the fight against climate change, and unfortunately with what they put forward yesterday, Canadians are going to still wait a long time,” he said.



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