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As Poilievre calls for summer road trip carbon tax break, Trudeau accuses him of 'axing the facts'

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To give Canadians a break on their summer road trips, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suspend all gas and diesel taxes from Victoria Day to Labour Day.

"It will reduce gas prices by 35 cents a litre, allowing families to get on the road and go off to their favourite campsite, maybe a cottage, or a cabin. Do some fishing, some hunting, or just get away for a weekend," Poilievre said Thursday, speaking in Vancouver. 

"Canadians need that now more than ever, with how miserable things are going in this country of ours," he said, behind a podium placard that read: "Axe the taxes."

Specifically, the Conservatives want the Liberal government to suspend the federal carbon tax, the excise tax on fuel, as well as the GST on gasoline and diesel, which they estimate would lower gas prices and save the average Canadian family $670 over the next few months.

According to Patrick De Haan with U.S.-based fuel-price tracker GasBuddy, if some of the taxes that Canadian motorists pay at the pump were lifted, it could mean real savings. He estimates the amount would be "in excess of 15 to 20 cents a litre."  

Asked whether this is a step he intends to take, Trudeau said that Poilievre should be making the same request of the provinces and territories who are responsible for "a significant part of excise taxes and taxes on gasoline across the country," while accusing him of "axing the facts" throughout the carbon tax debate.

"He talks about stopping the fight against climate change at a time where the country is burning… And at a time when Canadians are struggling with the cost of living, he wants to take away cheques to put more money in their pockets," Trudeau said, at an event touting 2024 budget measures in New Brunswick.

"His ideology is so strong he would rather watch the country burn and Canadians suffer… That tells us an awful lot about the kind of choices he makes as leader," Trudeau said.

Throughout this political fight – while offering select affordability-minded carve-outs and rebranding it – Trudeau has stood by his policy as an effective tool to incentivize Canadians to change their behaviour and pollute less, to help tackle climate change.

Under the current Canada Carbon Rebate system, the federal government offers the average family of four between $190 and $450 in quarterly incentive payments, which the Liberals say more money back in Canadians' pockets than they spend on carbon pricing from the fuel charge. 

The Conservatives dispute this assertion, citing a different conclusion from the same Parliamentary Budget Office analysis of the economic impact of the carbon tax. Seeking to address these contradictory interpretations, Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux has said that essentially both are true.

"If one looks at the fiscal impact — that is the amount of the carbon tax paid directly, indirectly and the GST that applies on these embedded or direct carbon taxes paid minus the carbon rebate — most families are better off," Giroux told a parliamentary committee in March. 

He went on to add that once the economic impacts of the carbon tax on some sectors of the economy such as oil and gas and transportation are factored in, "we find that most Canadian families in provinces where the federal backstop regime is in place will see a small negative impact of the carbon tax."

The federal New Democrats say they are "looking at" Poilievre's proposal, noting it made no mention of measures to stop oil and gas companies from hiking their prices.

"It's clear that the government must lower costs for Canadians. That's why we've called on the Liberal government to permanently eliminate GST from home heating, and crack down on the corporate greed of oil and gas companies," said NDP communications director Alana Cahill in a statement. "Pierre Poilievre voted against both of these proposals to help Canadians save money."

Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander echoed this caution around gas stations taking advantage of a potential dip in price.

"If Canadians are paying $1.50 to $2 a litre, then gas stations understand that's what Canadians are comfortable paying. So whether it's because there's a tax in place, or whether because that's what they can charge, that's what is the price," he said.

"That's often a mistake that's made… that when you change tax policy, you just assume that everybody's going to stand still."

Poilievre's suggestion to pay for this months-long tax break – which would result in a sizable reduction in federal revenue – is to cut back spending on consultants, a step the Liberals have already vowed to take.

This latest Official Opposition push against the carbon tax comes after months of steady pressure on the Liberals to scrap the federal carbon pricing program, something Poilievre has pledged to do, should he win the next election.

With files from CTV News' Annie Bergeron-Oliver 

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