GUNTER: Guilbeault, the carbon tax guru

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There used to be a pretty common bumper sticker that said, ‘Don’t steal. The government hates competition.”

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Boy, is that ever true?

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This week, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault sharply criticized regulators in the four Atlantic provinces for allowing gas station operators to pass on the costs of the federal carbon tax and new federal clean fuel rules to consumers.

As of July 1, motorists and home heating consumers in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI had not paid the full cost of the federal carbon tax. As of Canada Day, the government insisted they be taxed at over 14 cents per liter, like the rest of the country.

Adding in new federal clean fuel regulations that took effect that day, gasoline prices across much of Canada’s East Coast rose nearly 20 cents per liter in a day.

Voters in the strongly liberal region are outraged. Governing Trudeau supporters are automatically counting on 30 more seats from the region, but after the huge surge at the pump, Liberal support has plummeted in the polls.

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Who did Guilbeault, the carbon tax guru, blame? Refineries. And provincial regulators.

Guilbeault blamed regional refiners for increasing their profit margins by nearly 26 cents per liter since 2019. He then criticized provincial regulators for letting them pass on the cost of the two increased federal taxes rather than forcing Irving Oil and others to absorb the taxes on their profits.


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See what I mean about the government hating competition? “Hey, that 20 cents a liter shouldn’t go to oil companies, it should go to Ottawa!”

Guilbeault never considered that consumers might want to keep the cash.

The real irony is that Guilbeault loves carbon taxes. According to his plans, the cost per liter of “CO2 pricing” will increase the price at the pump by almost another 25 cents by 2030. He’s confident a total carbon tax of 40 cents per liter will save the planet by stopping Canadians from using their vehicles or heating their homes.

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So why should he care if the governments of Atlantic Canada allow consumers to feel the brunt of higher refinery profits AND higher federal taxes? If a high carbon tax is good for the planet, isn’t a higher tax actually better?

Well, until said carbon tax starts chipping away at Liberal support. Then the tax rage is someone else’s fault. Emissions need to be curbed, but voters shouldn’t blame the Trudeau Liberals.

What we’ve seen this summer is poll after poll suggesting the governing Liberals are 10 to 12 points behind the opposition Conservatives.

If you (like me) believe in the old adage that the opposition doesn’t win elections, governments lose them, you have to assume that the Liberals are on the verge of a historic loss if the NDP stops giving them political foothold take hold and force a choice.

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And it will matter almost no matter what Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre does or how hard the Liberals’ media critics try to protect them.

The Liberals have mishandled so many fundamental issues – gas prices, real estate prices, inflation, crime, foreign interference – that voters have reached a point where they conclude: The others couldn’t have it worse.

The Liberals are so good at making policy and driving their supporters through fear that I won’t be confident until they have a stake driven through their voters’ hearts. For example, they are currently operating as a majority government, despite receiving the lowest vote share of any government since Confederation in 2021.

So who else votes for liberals?

According to Abacus Data, the Liberals are behind in all age groups. Still, they are most popular among boomers, particularly boomer women in central Canada.

But at least for now there don’t appear to be enough voters to give the Libs a fourth straight win.

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