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Carbon tax tiff: PM Trudeau accuses Premier Furey of bowing to 'political pressure'

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accusing of Liberal Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey of bowing to "political pressure" in coming out against the looming carbon tax price increase.

Speaking in Montreal, CTV News asked Trudeau about his comment earlier in the week that political leaders in Canada who are against the federal government's price on pollution are "short-term thinker politicians" and whether he thought that moniker also applied to Furey. 

Furey sent the prime minister a letter this week calling on Trudeau to pause next month's carbon tax hike until inflation and interest rates stabilize and cost of living concerns "sufficiently cool."

April's tax increase to $80 from $65 per tonne of carbon emissions is part of a series of hikes, with a coinciding increase to the national rebate plan.

"I think Mr. Furey is continuing to bow to political pressure," Trudeau said.

"I think Canadians in Newfoundland and Labrador, and right across the country, expect their governments to do the right thing, and the right thing right now is not just fighting climate change," the prime minister continued.

"It's about being there to support Canadians during this affordability crisis and the Canada Carbon Rebate helps out 80 per cent of Canadians with more money than they pay in terms of a price on pollution."

The prime minister—continuing to defend his government's central climate change policy amid cross-Canada pressure from premiers and the Official Opposition to pause or altogether eradiate the program—called the Liberal carbon price and refund system "basic math."

Lamenting that "nobody is talking about" the quarterly rebate component of the federal fuel charge, Trudeau said those who are heeding to the pressure from folks worried about the cost of living are not considering that cancelling the carbon tax or scrapping the scheduled hike "would actually mean less money" in Canadians' pockets.

Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer has estimated that on average, when both fiscal and economic impacts of the federal fuel charge are considered, households may eventually pay more for the carbon price than they get back in rebate payments.

CTV News reached out to Furey for comment on the prime minister's remarks. In a statement, his office said the premier "has always been clear that the federal carbon tax is not the appropriate instrument to mitigate climate change at this time, and that he will continue to fight for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Furey's office also noted that the federal rebate "does not fully account for the indirect and induced costs of the carbon tax and clean fuel regulations."

"Premier Furey strongly believes in the importance of mitigating climate change, but urges the federal government to pause its increase to the carbon tax at this time," said spokesperson Meghan McCabe. 

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