Tories threaten to delay government work, hold up billions over price on pollution

By Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

The official Opposition has threatened to delay government work and hold up billions of dollars in spending if the Liberal government doesn’t drastically revise its carbon-pricing plan.

Tensions over the program, Intended to put a price on pollution, flared in the House of Commons on Wednesday, leading to the ejection of a Conservative MP.

The Tories delivered a taste of their plan with the introduction of as many as 20,000 amendments to an 11-page government bill that aims to create sustainable jobs as part of the transition to a net-zero emissions economy.

The natural resources committee is set to go through the amendments, which the Tories believe could take months to vote on individually.

The Conservatives also plan to force 135 votes on the government’s estimates Thursday in a process they believe could take more than 24 hours.

The Opposition wants the federal carbon-pricing plan removed from all home heating for families, farmers and First Nations, as they believe the price on pollution is increasing costs for those groups.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of ruining Christmas for Canadians, citing a housing shortage, rent increases and the cost of living.

“Justin Trudeau has ensured that your turkey dinner will have a big, fat, growing carbon tax caked on top of it,” Poilievre told his caucus Wednesday, with media invited to attend.

“That is not part of the recipe for turkey dinner that Canadians were looking for.”

The Tories are also eyeing amendments that could delay passage of legislation to implement measures in the government’s fall economic statement.

The $20.8 billion in new spending over five years includes initiatives to boost the housing supply through rental units and affordable homes.

The current sitting of the House is expected to end Dec. 15, when MPs take a six-week break as they spend time in their ridings over the holidays.

The Tories contend that if they succeed in stalling the Liberals’ agenda, the sitting will need to be extended.

Said Poilievre, addressing Trudeau: “You will have no rest until the tax is gone.”

But for that to happen, the Tories would need unanimous consent of the House, including support from the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois.

If the government was of the view it needed to sit longer, it would have to write to the Speaker of the House and explain its reasoning for an extension. It would then be up to the Speaker to allow it or not.

The government has not indicated it would do that.

Following Poilievre’s speech, Trudeau said he plans on enjoying Christmas this year with his family.

“Mr. Poilievre can play whatever parliamentary games he wants. We’re here to work. We’re here to deliver for seniors. We’re here to deliver for young people. We’re here to deliver on housing, on affordability, on measures to support Ukraine,” Trudeau said before heading into the House.

“He can make us work late. We’re happy to do it because we’re doing important things for Canadians while he’s pulling stunts.”

Government House leader Karina Gould called the Conservative plan “completely irresponsible and reckless dilatory tactics.”

Affordability challenges are not a result of the price on pollution, but rather inflation that’s linked to global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she said.

“And so, once again, (Poilievre’s) looking for clickbait,” she said. “He’s looking for slogans, but those aren’t solutions for Canadians.”

Poilievre’s plan comes after the Conservatives accused the Liberals of conspiring with the Independent Senators Group in order to delay the Tories’ carbon-pricing bill currently before the Senate.

It also led to a heated moment in the Commons on Wednesday during question period when Alberta Conservative MP Damien Kurek accused Trudeau and his “minions” of lying about the carbon price.

He was ejected by deputy Speaker Chris d’Entremont after refusing to retract his statement and apologize.

That Senate bill would eliminate the levy from most natural gas and propane used on farms. But on Tuesday the Senate narrowly voted to amend it to limit the carbon-pricing exemption to propane used for grain drying.

A provision that would have also provided an exemption for fuels used to heat farm buildings, including barns, was removed in an amendment that passed by a narrow 40-39 margin.

Poilievre accused the Independent Senators Group of voting to gut the Conservative bill “that would have taken the tax off of our farmers just in time for Christmas.”

“Well, I’ve got news for Justin Trudeau. You’ve ruined Christmas for Canadians,” he said. “Common-sense Conservatives are going to ruin your vacation as well.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2023.

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