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Tories threaten all-nighter over true cost to Canadians of Liberal carbon price

Last Updated Jun 14, 2018 at 3:20 pm PDT

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a Committee of the Whole in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Conservative Finance Critic Pierre Poilievre says he plans to make life really uncomfortable for the governing Liberals until they finally give in and produce their analysis on how much a carbon price of $50 a tonne is going to cost the average Canadian family. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – MPs were facing another long night of marathon voting Thursday as the Conservatives pushed the government to disclose how much its carbon price is going to cost Canadian families.

Finance critic Pierre Poilievre said his goal is to make the government feel “as uncomfortable as possible until they tell the truth” about how much more Canadians will pay for everything from groceries to gasoline because of the carbon price.

“If this government is going to make Canadians pay the price we’re going to make the government pay the price by keeping them here for 25 hours straight voting on their carbon tax cover up,” Poilievre said.

The Conservatives had lined up more than 200 votes on the government’s main spending plan and threatened to proceed with them late Thursday if the government opposed a Tory motion calling on it to table by June 22 how much the proposed $50-per-tonne carbon price will cost Canadian families.

It’s the second time in less than three months the Conservatives have used an all-nighter to make a political point. In March, they forced a 21-hour filibuster in a bid to force the government to agree to allow national security adviser Daniel Jean to testify at committee about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India.

Ultimately, the Conservatives won that battle because about two weeks after that voting marathon, the government agreed Jean could testify at the committee about non-classified information. He did so on April 16.

However, they’re not likely to win the carbon price battle. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the government has already released its cost analysis, pointing to a report released in April that said its plan could cut emissions by up to 90 million tonnes a year by the time the carbon price hits $50 a tonne in 2022, at a cost to the economy of about $2 billion. That is equivalent to less than 0.1 per cent of the gross domestic product.

“The Conservative Party is going to make people vote all night in relation to this when we have released this information,” McKenna said.

She tabled the April report in the Commons following question period Thursday.

As for the specific impacts on families, McKenna said it will depend on how each province chooses to use revenues from the carbon price. While the Liberals require every province to put a minimum $20-per-tonne price on carbon emissions by January 1 — rising to $50 per tonne in 2022 — it will only impose the price on provinces that don’t create their own system.

What Poilievre wants, however, is a document done by the department of finance in 2015 which looks at the potential impact of a carbon price based on household consumption data across different income levels. He says he knows it exists because it was mentioned in documents he obtained through access-to-information legislation, although the actual analysis was blacked out.

“We’re not asking for their April public relations pamphlet,” Poilievre said.

The carbon price is becoming one of the biggest points of contention between the Liberals and Conservatives and promises to be a major debate during the next federal election.

The Conservatives feel emboldened by the Ontario election win for Doug Ford, who campaigned on a promise to get rid of that province’s cap-and-trade system which kicked into place in March 2017. The Liberals counter that a majority of Ontario residents actually voted for one of the two parties that support carbon pricing.

If the Conservatives proceed with the voting marathon it will also further delay passage of the government’s bill to make pot legal in Canada. The government’s response to Senate amendments to Bill C-45 was to be debated Thursday night but, due to the Tories’ 200 motions, that vote likely won’t take place until next week.