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Conservative leadership hopefuls reach a carbon tax consensus


One of the most intriguing questions of the Conservative leadership race is whether any candidate would put their head above the parapet and support a carbon tax.

With news this week that Jean Charest plans to scrap the carbon tax and revert to Canada’s pre-2015 emissions targets, the answer appears to be a resounding no.

Today is the final day for candidates to secure a place on the final ballot, so in our Conservative leadership roundup, we’ll take a look at the state of play and dig into the candidates’ carbon tax positions.

Carbon tax opposition across the board

Jean Charest officially declared his opposition to the federal consumer carbon tax this week and promised to abide by emissions targets established by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, rather than the current targets promised by the current Liberal government.

Charest said he would respect the individual decisions made by provinces to battle climate change. The current policy functions as a backstop, imposing a tax on provinces that don’t meet the federal standard.

Charest told the Canadian Press on Monday that he didn’t want to go “down the route of a more complex consumer tax or consumer pricing.” That’s likely a reference to Erin O’Toole’s carbon tax proposal last year that would have deposited refunds onto “low carbon savings accounts” that could be used to make environmentally-friendly purchases.

Charest’s plan also promised tax credits for carbon capture and storage technology and would remove the federal portion of the HST on electric vehicles, high-efficiency windows, and Energy Star appliances. He is also pledging to roll out tax credits for carbon capture and storage technology and for carbon dioxide removal facilities.

Patrick Brown, who has previously supported a carbon tax, said in hindsight it was “not the right approach,”During his campaign launch speech, Brown told supporters that Conservatives care about lowering greenhouse gas emissions and the Conservative Party must be part of the solution to climate change. and promised to consult the party members and caucus on his plan for the environment.

Poilievre, who has been consistently and loudly anti-carbon tax, has tried to paint Charest and Brown as supporters of the policy, referring to it as the “Trudeau-Charest-Brown” carbon tax. While both have flirted with the idea in the past, it seems like carbon taxes are officially a non-starter in the current leadership race.

Ontario MP Scott Aitchison has said that while the carbon tax is an effective policy, it is also an unfair one, and promised to scrap it.We need to work with municipalities and we need to help Canadians reduce their footprint, not punish them.”

Charest’s plan aligns with recommendations from the advocacy group Conservatives for Clean Growth.“Canada has unprecedented economic and technological opportunities as the world moves to Net Zero.”

Although the group doesn’t advocate for a retail carbon tax, its website says that “pricing industrial emissions” is one of the tools needed in an effective climate plan.

That’s a compromise many Canadians have seen before, with even fervent opponents of the carbon tax like Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney settling for a tax on heavy emitters.

The final candidate deadline is today

The deadline to get a spot on the final ballot of the leadership race is today and several candidates on the margins will have spent this week fundraising frantically to secure a spot.

So far, Leslyn Lewis, Jean Charest, Pierre Poilievre, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown and Scott Aitchison have been verified by the party.

The candidates must provide 500 signaturesThe signatures must span at least 30 Electoral Districts in 7 provinces. from party members and pay the remaining $150,000 registration fee and a $100,000 security deposit.

A recent poll by Ipsos for Global News shows the uphill climb for many candidates even to get recognized among Conservative voters.

Only Charest and Poilievre tallied less than 50 percent of respondents saying they “don’t know enough about them” to answer poll questions.

The poll also shows that Brown and Charest are the most polarizing candidates with Poilievre the most popular, with 49 percent favourability and 20 percent unfavourability.

“It suggests that any attempt by the Charest campaign to mount an anyone-but-Poilievre drive might have limited appeal. An anyone-but-Charest message could actually have more traction,” wrote polling expert Éric Grenier in The Writ, his newsletter providing analysis on Canadian elections.

Poilievre plans to punish big cities ‘for egregious cases of NIMBYism’


It’s rare to see news coverage of Canadian politics in U.S. outlets, but it’s even more extraordinary to see leadership race policy proposals appearing south of the border.

A recent Washington Post column highlighting the housing plans of several Conservatives might be a sign of how important housing has become as an issue for young voters, or it might be a sign that the debate in Canada is genuinely fascinating for policy wonks.

This week, Ontario MP Scott Aitchison overtly campaigned on YIMBYism (yes-in-my-backyard) and Pierre Poilievre took a big swing at big-city NIMBYs (not-in-my-backyard).

In our weekly round-up of the Conservative leadership race, we look at housing policies, Canada’s controversial dairy supply management system, and Jean Charest’s latest policy proposal on health care.

A crackdown on gatekeepers

Pierre Poilievre plans to punish big cities “for egregious cases of NIMBYism and gatekeeping” with a new policy proposal that aims to address the housing shortage.

Poilievre’s plan would require “severely unaffordable” big cities to increase housing development by 15 percent or risk losing some federal funding. The plan will also pay municipalities $10,000 for each extra home built and would also encourage high-density development on land near transit projects.The plan also promises to sell off 15 percent of the government’s buildings and stop the federal government from “creating cash to fund government deficits.”

Ontario MP Scott Aitchison also encouraged a “yes in my backyard” spirit on the campaign trail this week, arguing it was the best way to fix the country’s housing crisis.

The issue has even gotten some play in U.S. media.

Centre-left columnist Matthew Yglesias, who runs the Substack newsletter Slow Boring, wrote that it’s surprising to see right-of-centre politicians in Canada offering solutions to fix the housing shortage. In America, Donald Trump and his allies have attacked similar plans as an attempt to “abolish the suburbs.”

“In Canada, as in the U.S., the federal government finances a fair amount of local government activity. So it makes sense to tie funding to new housing permits. If towns and cities want money for infrastructure, they need to do their share to add to the national housing supply,” wrote Yglesias.

“In the U.S., this is considered a daring left-wing idea,” he wrote. “On the economics, (American conservatives) could learn a lot from their conservative friends north of the border.”

Conservatives wade into supply management again

Aitchison also made some waves this week with a plan to wind down Canada’s dairy supply management program.

Aitchison argued that the artificial limits on supply raise prices for Canadian consumers of dairy, poultry, and eggs, which is particularly troublesome at a time when inflation is reaching its highest level in decades. The plan would also compensate farmers who would lose out when the program is abolished.

Poilievre has recently argued that this kind of compensation would make abolishing the program more expensive than keeping it.

Maxime Bernier ran on a similar proposal during the 2017 Conservative leadership race and was ultimately defeated in part by dairy farmers turning out to support rival candidate Andrew Scheer.“Many dairy and poultry farmers across Canada breathed a sigh of relief… as Andrew Scheer defeated front-runner Maxime Bernier to become the leader of the Official Opposition and the Conservative Party of Canada.”

Charest tests the water on private health-care delivery

Jean Charest rolled out a new policy proposal this week that would allow the provinces more flexibility on how to deliver health care and which could open the door to more private surgeries being paid for with public dollars.

Charest said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how desperately low Canada’s health-care capacity is and that this option would prevent any further lockdowns.

“In every category, from ICU and hospital beds per capita, to doctors and nurses per capita, to wait times for basic procedures, Canada is near the bottom of the OECD rankings despite spending more than most countries that outperform us,” Charest told the Toronto Sun.

As the former premier of Quebec, Charest oversaw a system that allowed more private delivery than the rest of Canada due to a 2005 Supreme Court case.

The issue has long been controversial in Canadian politics and caused one infamous episode in the 2021 federal election when a videoAfter the edited video was posted, O’Toole sought to make clear his support for universal health care, blasting the Liberals for “American-style misleading politics.” posted by Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland accusing then-Conservative leader Erin O’Toole of supporting private health care was flagged by Twitter as “manipulated media.”