Guilbeault defends carbon price, says on average, households will pay more but rich will shoulder burden
Canada’s environment and climate change minister says that on average, households may eventually pay more for the carbon price than they get back in rebate payments, but the Liberal government is helping Canadians lower their energy costs in other ways.
The carbon price increased this weekend, from $50 to $65 per tonne. According to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, the change will translate to a higher cost for consumers at the gas pumps, from the current 11.05 cents per litre, to 14.31 cents per litre, among other impacts.
The hike comes just days after a report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) this week stating that by 2030, when the price of carbon is expected to reach $170 per tonne, most households will see a net loss, despite the rebate payments offered by the federal government to offset the surcharge.
“When both fiscal and economic impacts of the federal fuel charge are considered, we estimate that most households will see a net loss,” PBO Yves Giroux said in a statement following release of the report. “Based on our analysis, most households will pay more in fuel charges and GST—as well as receiving slightly lower incomes—than they will receive in Climate Action Incentive payments.”
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday that while "on average, households will pay more” because of the carbon price increase, even after the rebates, he says the system is designed to be proportional, meaning wealthier Canadians will still foot larger bills.
“If you do the average, yeah, it's true, it's going to cost more money to people, but the people who are paying are the richest among us, which is exactly how the system was designed,” he said.
“So the rich pay more for their carbon consumption and their carbon pollution, and we're supporting, through the transition, middle class Canadians and low income Canadians, and that's exactly what we're doing,” he also said.
Guilbeault said that while the rebates may not cover the full cost for Canadians, the federal government is doing a number of other things to mitigate the cost of climate change and help people transition to a lower carbon future. He cited incentive programs to purchase electric vehicles, and home energy retrofits to reduce home heating costs, as examples.
“This is another way we're helping Canadians reduce their environmental impact, but also their overall energy costs,” he said, adding the PBO’s report does not take into account the cost of the impacts of climate change.
But when pressed on the system itself and a commitment that most households wouldn’t be out of pocket for the carbon price, Guilbeault again pointed to it being proportional, and lower income Canadians seeing greater rebates.
“We have said that the rebates would help the people most in need in Canada and that's exactly what the system is doing,” he said.
Guilbeault also said in a statement this week the PBO report does “not account for economic opportunities that come with driving clean tech innovation,” and referenced the recently tabled federal budget and the earmarked funds for clean energy included in it.
“That’s like a business calculating their revenues, by looking only at one side of their ledger book,” he said of the PBO report.
The federal Conservatives have repeatedly issued calls for the Liberals to axe the carbon price, with party leader Pierre Poilievre saying in the House of Commons this week: “It’s April Fool’s Day, and the joke will be on Canadians. Why won’t they cancel this tax?”
Meanwhile in Ontario, the carbon price became a source of friction between Premier Doug Ford and Guilbeault this week. Ford has been critical of the program, and on Wednesday, Guilbeault said he found the comment “incredibly rich coming from a premier who has no plan to fight climate change.”
The comment prompted the premier to call Guilbeault a “real piece of work.”
“I didn't say that Ontario wasn't doing anything,” Guilbeault told CTV’s Question Period. “I said that the Ontario government has no climate plan, which is true, and they've admitted as much themselves.”
He added he considers a “plan” one with a series of measures with targets and progress reporting.
Guilbeault said despite the back-and-forth comments this week, he works closely with the Ontario government and its ministers to "try and find a path forward" on several environmental projects and policies.
With files from CTV News’ Stephanie Ha