The New Democrats are facing political headwinds when it comes to carbon pricing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Friday, but he said he doesn't understand why they're pulling back their support.

The NDP have long been proponents of the climate policy, and even campaigned on it in the 2019 election.

But this week, the party shifted its position, saying carbon pricing is not the "be-all, end-all" and encouraging premiers to come up with new ideas to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Its MPs also backed a non-binding Conservative motion in the House of Commons demanding that Trudeau sit down with provincial and territorial leaders within five weeks to discuss the policy.

"It's not a handful of conservative politicians and premiers that are going to turn me away from continuing the fight against climate change, the fight for a better future and the fight to put more money in people's pockets," Trudeau said Friday in Vaughn, Ont., a city northwest of Toronto.

"So I don't entirely understand the position of the NDP and pulling back from affordability measures and from the fight against climate change."

The Conservatives insist that the carbon price is making life less affordable for Canadians, while the Liberals say rebates from the price on pollution mean most Canadians end up with more money at the end of the day.

Trudeau said the Conservative message seems to be resonating with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

"I feel for the NDP and for Jagmeet. This is a hard moment. There are political headwinds. There's a lot of political pressure," he said.

"I'm certainly feeling it, everyone should be feeling it, by folks out there who are worried about affordability, who are worried about climate change."

But that shouldn't stop the NDP from sticking to its guns on a long-held policy position, Trudeau said.

"I understand the political pressures on the NDP leadership right now and the challenges of holding an unpopular position, but doing the right thing should be something progressive voters in this country can count on."

Singh didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Conservatives argue that Singh is trying to mislead Canadians on his record of supporting the policy.

The Tories have introduced more than 20 motions in the House under leader Pierre Poilievre to scrap the federal carbon price. The NDP voted against all but two of them.

"But now, as Jagmeet Singh’s popularity nosedives and six NDP members of Parliament announced that they are abandoning Singh’s sinking ship, Singh has decided that the carbon tax is hurting Canadians after all," the Conservative party said in a statement Friday.

"It’s clear that Jagmeet Singh is a weak leader who is desperate to run from his own record."

The NDP has made major policy gains as part of its political pact with Trudeau's minority Liberals.

But New Democrats haven't translated wins on national pharmacare or dental-care programs into polling success.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, are eyeing NDP seats in British Columbia and northern Ontario, where their relentless campaigning on cost-of-living issues and the Liberal price on pollution are resonating.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.