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Don Martin: As much as Poilievre wants it, he will not get his election wish for 2023

It’s been 100+ hours of brutal aftermath since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau turned carbon pricing from a national principle into regional graft by lifting the tax on home heating oil and using free heat pumps to buy back the Liberal loyalty of Atlantic Canada voters.

On Tuesday, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre had seen enough and challenged the prime minister to call an immediate election as a referendum on unpopular carbon taxes.

It’s a bit of a gamble. The last election dare across the Commons floor I can recall was in 2000 when then-Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, who incidentally employed a young Poilievre as his aide, dared Jean Chretien to “either resign or call an election.”

Chretien called and won a snap election two months later. And Day resigned as leader.

This prime minister doesn’t have a death wish so he merely dismissed Poilievre’s election challenge as another campaign the Liberals would win as defenders of environmental policy.


Even so, while Trudeau may not have grasped it — and apparently his top aides don’t either — carbon taxation has the potential to endure as a ballot box issue until 2025 if not much sooner.

Amid this game of electoral chicken you can almost feel the NDP losing its will to let this minority government live on.

Leader Jagmeet Singh launched his attack against the prime minister this week for engaging the cynical and divisive policy to bolster his political fortunes, a set of dubious characteristics that make Trudeau an increasingly awkward parliamentary partner.

And Singh won’t get any encouragement to keep Trudeau afloat as western premiers, be they Conservative or NDP, noisily protest the inherent unfairness of having a tax aimed at reducing the burning of emission-belching oil being lifted on the dirtiest fuel while cleaner options such as natural gas remain highly taxed.

Their grumbling will undoubtedly be amplified by Liberal MPs on the Prairies, all five of them, who know they are the walking dead if a carbon tax exemption lingers in the east while their voters pay a premium in the west.

Looking behind the prime minister during Tuesday’s question period was to see his trained MP seals delivering their obligatory Trudeau applause with severely restrained enthusiasm.


It’s a different vibe. Not quite a death rattle, but increasingly, an air of desperation as Trudeau’s political disasters pile up.

That much was evident when Immigration Minister Marc Miller, one of the classier acts in the cabinet, waded into outstretched media microphones to trash Poilievre as the sort of ‘check your wallet' shady character who is “very very dangerous for the state of democracy.”

That was an extremely uncharacteristic non-specific smear of a political opponent by Trudeau’s longtime buddy.

Another sign of everything-falling-apart came when former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, the white knight waiting to ride over the hill to the Liberal rescue as new leader, gently questioned Trudeau’s move. “I would’ve looked for other ways to provide that support than the route chosen, not the least being because what is important is the clarity in terms of the overall plan,” he understated.

Of course, there’s the hard-to-beat headline-grabbing gaffe by Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Gudie Hutchings. She appeared on CTV’s Question Period to advise Canadians who want lower carbon taxes and free heat pumps to elect more Liberals, which is brutally honest to a very serious fault and unmasked the carbon tax change as pure political pork.

And so, about that election...

Well, figures came out Tuesday showing Liberal donations in the third quarter have dried up to less than half the $7 million raked in by the war chest-bulging Conservatives, a sure sign of Canadians voting against Trudeau with their wallets.

And to make bad news worse, Tuesday dawned with figures showing Canada tipping into a technical recession with its flatlined GDP.

So as much as Poilievre salivates for it, he will not get his election wish for 2023 or possibly even 2024.

The Liberals need another two years to stabilize their Keystone-cops cabinet, plot a new reason for their re-election and hope their Conservative nemesis squanders his huge polling lead with some major gaffes of his own.

Failing that, they desperately hope Justin Trudeau will read all this negative writing on the wall as his political obit — and quit. 



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