Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is refusing to say whether the planned increase to the carbon tax next week will still happen even as workers and businesses grapple with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Journalists who attended the prime minister’s daily briefing on the coronavirus from Rideau Cottage asked him whether that increase will be put on pause or still go ahead.
“We know that it is important that we put more money in the pockets of Canadians at this point when they’re stressed,” he said in response.
“Our plan on pricing pollution puts more money upfront into people’s pockets than they would pay with the new price on pollution. We’re going to continue to focus on putting more money in people’s pockets to support them right across the country.”
A reporter pushed back: “So yes or no? On carbon tax, will it go out next week?
Trudeau again dodged the question and refused to give a clear answer.
“We continue to make sure that people have more money in their pockets because that is how we designed the price on pollution.”
The carbon tax is scheduled to increase from $20 per tonne to $30 per tonne on April 1.
For consumers, that translates to roughly an extra 2.5 cents per litre of gasoline at the pumps.
Earlier in the week, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association put out a statement urging the federal government to cancel the scheduled increase, citing strains on household expenses.
“The Canadian economy is facing a serious challenge. Adding a 50 per cent increase in the carbon tax is a further hit to grain farmers’ bottom line and Canadian consumers’ food bills. Now is not the time to be to be adding to our household expenses,” said Gunter Jochum, president of the farm advocacy group.
“Our focus should be on the health and economic well-being of all Canadians.”
The coronavirus pandemic has roiled stock markets and small businesses over recent months as social distancing and border shutdowns hit supply chains and shrink consumer demands.
Sectors like retail, tourism and the airline industry are feeling the brunt of the impact, with hundreds of thousands of layoffs reported across industries.
Trudeau said last week that more than 500,000 people have so far applied for Employment Insurance under the loosened eligibility criteria rolled out as part of the government’s $107-billion coronavirus support package.
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