Hopefuls would kill carbon tax
All three party candidates oppose plan designed to help pay for election platform
All three Progressive Conservative leadership candidates have abandoned the carbon tax that generates the revenues to pay for promises in the party’s People’s Guarantee platform.
That effectively means a $4-billiona-year reduction in revenues for mental-health spending, income-tax cuts, child-care breaks and other key planks in ex-leader Patrick Brown’s carefully crafted 78-page election program.
Although leadership hopeful Caroline Mulroney told the Star on Sunday she backed the People’s Guarantee because “the platform came out of the grassroots policy process that all the members voted on,” she has since changed her tune.
“As the leader of our party I will not support a carbon tax,” Mulroney said in a statement Thursday.
Her flip-flop came after rivals Christine Elliott and Doug Ford said they opposed Brown’s plan to sign on to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national carbon-pricing scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m a conservative and I’m not in favour of a new tax, especially Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax,” she said, adding she has “now had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of members of our party” and “consulted with members of our caucus and our nominated candidates.”
“It’s clear to me that members of the Ontario PC Party feel that imposing a carbon tax on the hardworking people of Ontario is not something they support.”
Elliott, a former MPP and the runner-up to Brown in the 2015 leadership, made her feelings known Tuesday on Twitter.
“I personally oppose a carbon tax, and I know many of you feel the same way. This leadership race is a way for you to have your say,” she said.
On Thursday, she released a survey of PC members, showing 92 per cent of 1,500 respondents opposed the levy while 8 per cent support it.
Ford, a former Toronto councillor and runner-up to John Tory in the city’s 2014 mayoral election, was the first candidate to oppose the tax.
“The @OntarioPCParty needs a decisive leader that will take firm positions,” he said on Twitter on Thursday.
“I am the only candidate who has been unequivocal in opposition to the carbon tax and . . . have been clear since day one. I will axe the carbon tax. Just watch me.”
The decision essentially sounds the death knell for the People’s Guarantee, just 75 days after the Star revealed its contents on Nov. 25 — and comes 119 days from the election.
It is also a vindication for dissident activist Jim Karahalios’ grassroots “Axe the Carbon Tax” movement.
Environment Minister Chris Ballard said the move by the three PC candidates “blows a $16-billion hole in the Tory platform” over four years.
That’s because, under Brown, the Conservatives planned to scrap the Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program to curb greenhouse gas emissions and sign on to Ottawa’s carbon-pricing regime.
Under federal law, all provinces that do not have carbon pollution pricing systems must join Trudeau’s scheme. Ontario — like Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta — already has its own measures in place.
So if Elliott, Ford or Mulroney succeeds Kathleen Wynne as premier, it is unclear how carbon will be priced in Ontario without cap-and-trade.
With the Tories forced to elect a new leader on March 10 — after Brown resigned in scandal on Jan. 25 — they will have to cobble together a new platform for the June 7 election.
Leadership candidates Doug Ford, Caroline Mulroney and Christine Elliott know party members oppose new taxes.