Premier, PM divided on carbon tax, together on immigration


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Manitobans are unlikely to get a tax break on fuel, after calls by Premier Heather Stefanson for Ottawa to pause collection of the carbon tax were dismissed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a stop in Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/09/2022 (212 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitobans are unlikely to get a tax break on fuel, after calls by Premier Heather Stefanson for Ottawa to pause collection of the carbon tax were dismissed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a stop in Winnipeg.

“There are some issues that we have to agree to disagree on,” Stefanson told reporters at the conclusion of a bilateral meeting Thursday.

Over recent months, Stefanson has made repeated requests to the federal government — including during an affordability announcement Wednesday — to suspend the carbon tax as a measure to help Canadians struggling under rising inflation.

However, Trudeau rejected the suggestion earlier in the day, during a stop at the Université de St. Boniface, where he met with about 10 nursing students and administrators in a mock hospital before breaking off to take questions from reporters. A small group of protesters were also gathered outside the post-secondary institution.

“What the premier, and others across the country, don’t seem to be honest about with Canadians is in the places like Manitoba, where the federal price on pollution applies, average families get more money back from the price on pollution than the extra price on pollution costs them,” Trudeau told reporters.

The global inflation crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine has forced Canada to move faster to decarbonize and get off its “near total reliance on oil and gas,” the prime minister added.

The carbon tax addresses climate change and supports families, Trudeau said, and the federal government will continue to move in that direction. “Families deserve to get more money in their pockets at a time when we’re facing challenges around affordability.”

Stefanson said that cash should not be siphoned from Manitobans’ wallets and the province will continue to push Ottawa to do more on affordability.

“Manitobans need that money now, so rather than taking the money away from them and going through rebates and all this — just leave the money with them,” she said.

Previously, the provincial Tories said Ottawa must soften its stance on the carbon tax before the Manitoba government would entertain reducing the 14 cents per litre it collects on gas. The province will continue to monitor challenges related to affordability moving forward, Stefanson said.

“We were calling on the federal government to take other measures as well,” she said. “We have our package, and we just want them to take some action as well.”

Despite being unable to find common ground on the carbon tax, Stefanson described the meeting with Trudeau as positive and focused on areas where the two levels of government can work together to “get things done,” including immigration, infrastructure, health care and reconciliation.

Trudeau met with the premier Thursday afternoon, at the downtown Fort Garry Hotel, where the two smiled and shook hands in front of cameras before media was asked to leave the room.

Later, Stefanson said she raised concerns about cost overruns caused by inflation for projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. Major upgrades to the north end water treatment plant, Winnipeg Transit and other infrastructure projects are funded through the program.

The prime minister also signalled willingness to expand the Manitoba provincial nominee program and increase immigration, Stefanson said. The premier would not speculate on a potential increase to the provincial quota.

“We will take as many immigrants as you will allow us, and more,” Stefanson said she told the prime minister. “This is one of those areas where we have agreed to work together and we’ll work towards more positive outcomes when it comes to immigration in Manitoba.”

Trudeau concluded his Winnipeg stop at the Stanley Knowles Children’s Centre, a daycare in Tyndall Park, where he met with a handful of families and read picture books with the children.

The federal Liberal leader said the government recognizes Canadians are struggling with the cost of living, and has moved to increase the Canada Child Benefit and Old Age Security, in addition to reducing child care fees.

“We don’t want to make inflation worse by overspending from a government perspective,” Trudeau said. “Getting that balance right of supporting those who need support and making sure our economic recovery happens in the right way without making things worse is what this government is very carefully looking at.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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