OTTAWA -- Outgoing Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer says the government needs to hold off on increasing the price on carbon , and refund GST payments collected in the last six months.

Scheer pitched the measures as means to relieve the financial strain on small businesses and the Canadian public alike. The carbon tax is set to increase by $10 a tonne on Wednesday, but Prime Minster Justin Trudeau hasn’t indicated his government will delay the hike.

“Conservatives have been opposed to the carbon tax at the outset,” said Scheer. “This is the last thing Canadians need right now.”

Speaking in his hometown of Regina on Wednesday, Scheer said the Liberal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic thus far has been one of “confusion and repeated delays” and only after the Conservatives have pushed them for action, have they budged.

He specifically referenced the Liberal government’s timing imposing more severe restrictions on international travel and announcing a wage subsidy plan for businesses.

Canadians have been waiting to hear from Finance Minister Bill Morneau about the government’s proposed wage subsidy plan, which would cover 75 per cent on the first $58,700 of employees salaries for charities and small- and medium-sized businesses whose revenues have fallen by 30 per cent or more due to COVID-19.

In his daily press briefing last Friday, Trudeau said details of the plan would be fleshed out Monday. Morneau and Small Business Minister Mary Ng were expected to speak to reporters Tuesday, but their update is now slated for Wednesday afternoon.

The government originally proposed a 10 per cent wage subsidy plan, which many experts deemed too minimal to have a significant impact, but later upped the benchmark to match larger grant programs offered internationally such as in Denmark.

“When the government announced its 10 per cent wage subsidy, Conservatives said that was not going to be sufficient. There are so many businesses out there that have seen a catastrophic decline in revenue and 10 per cent subsidy would not be sufficient. We were calling on the government, for days and days, to increase that wage subsidy. Finally, they took action this week although in a very confused manner,” said Scheer.

There is question now whether the government will need to recall Parliament once again to gain approval for their adjustment to the subsidy plan. Parliament has been adjourned since mid-March, but MPs returned to Ottawa last week to debate and ultimately approve the Liberal’s COVID-19 aid package.

“They should have made sure they were getting it right when it comes to helping Canadians instead of just helping themselves,” said Scheer on Wednesday.

Trudeau said the hope in making the change is that companies are equipped to keep their staff on payroll to prevent mass layoffs, or feel empowered to re-hire employees.

MPs are also expected to get an added boost to their yearly salary on Wednesday. This year, MPs are entitled to a 2.1 per cent hike, which will increase their base salaries by approximately $3,750 to $182,656.

When asked whether this should be deferred until after the pandemic, Scheer said “I would of course be supportive of that. In the meantime I have indicated that I personally will be donating any extra salary to a local food bank that I’m sure is experiencing a great deal of increased demand.”

He added that the Conservative Party will support legislation to delay the wage increase.

With files from The Canadian Press