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Ontario Liberals have no position on the carbon tax

Bonnie Crombie, 'queen of the people's hearts,' said her party will consult with experts and regular Ontarians on the party's climate plan
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie stands on stage with supporters at a rally in Mississauga, Ont. on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, in which she announced her Ontario Liberal Leadership candidacy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on The Trillium, a Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.

Ontario's new Liberal leader says her party has no position on the carbon tax implemented by her federal cousins.

Bonnie Crombie came to Queen's Park Tuesday to mark the start of the new legislative sitting. 

At a press conference, she criticized a bill tabled by the Progressive Conservative government Tuesday that seeks to require that any future government hold a referendum before implementing a new carbon pricing program in Ontario.

Premier Doug Ford has made it clear he's targeting Crombie — whom he's dubbed the "Queen of the Carbon Tax" — with the bill. The PC party is running attack ads against her on the same theme.

"Rather than focusing on the real challenges facing Ontarians, he spent all his time talking about, well, me and trying to bind a future Ontario Liberal government. I guess he knows deep down that he will lose the next election," said Crombie.

But Crombie, who was elected to lead the Ontario Liberals in December, maintains she has no position whatsoever on the carbon tax, now called the "Canada Carbon Rebate" after a rebranding by the federal Liberal government.

Pressed by the media, including a journalist with The Trillium, to clarify her position, Crombie would only say that her party will consult on its environmental plan.

"We are going to consult with our residents, with stakeholders, with scientists, and Ontario families, and we will develop a strong and a progressive plan to urgently tackle the issue of climate change because getting this right is critical for Ontarians, because climate change is burning in Ontario and Doug Ford is only making things worse," said Crombie.

She would not say when that consultation will begin or what it will entail.

The only hint of her thinking she gave was that the Liberal plan would not cost taxpayers money but would address climate change.

Government House Leader Paul Calandra said Crombie's lack of a position on the carbon tax was "news" to him, as she campaigned in support of the Green Shift — a carbon tax plan proposed by former federal Liberal leader Stéphane Dion — when Calandra and Crombie were both candidates for federal parliament in 2008.

"She campaigned vigorously and supported what was an even more radical carbon shift," he said, referring to the Green Shift plan, which was never implemented as Dion and the Liberal Party of Canada lost the 2008 election, resulting in a Conservative minority.

Asked about that, Crombie said she'd like to focus on her record as the mayor of Mississauga, where environmentally focused measures were put in place.

"I think this is just another attempt, another stunt, if you will, a desperate attempt to deflect from what's going on with the Conservative caucus, with the reversals, the scandals, the insider deals," she said.

For Calandra's part, he walked away from a Toronto Star journalist's questions about whether the government would hold a referendum on the industrial carbon price, known as the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Performance Standards, that his government introduced. The legislation exempts changes to that carbon-pricing program from the referendum requirement.

The Ford government has devoted significant time and money fighting the federal carbon backstop, which was implemented in Ontario after the Progressive Conservatives repealed the cap-and-trade program the province had in place. It went to court to get it declared unconstitutional and lost

It's also common for PCs to use their question period time to rail against the carbon tax, with backbench MPPs asking ministers to elaborate on just how bad it is.

For its part, the NDP has always preferred a cap-and-trade system to a carbon tax, said leader Marit Stiles.

The question could become more than hypothetical for the Ontario Liberals if they win the next election. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who has a consistently strong lead in opinion polls, has promised to repeal the federal carbon backstop. 

In one final attempt to get clarity from Crombie, a reporter from Global News asked her if she considers herself the "queen of the carbon tax," as she's been dubbed by Ford.

"I'm queen of the people's hearts," Crombie replied.

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Jessica Smith Cross

About the Author: Jessica Smith Cross

Reporting for Metro newspapers in five Canadian cities, as well as for CTV, the Guelph Mercury and the Turtle Island News. She made the leap to political journalism in 2016...
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