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‘This is just the beginning’: Carbon tax protests blocking traffic across Canada, NL Premier calls for emergency meeting

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Protests have spread across Canada on April 1 to oppose the federal government’s implementation of an additional $15/tonne consumer carbon tax hike, pushing prices to $80/tonne starting April 1, resulting in an average increase of 3.3 cents per litre of gasoline.

Some protests have blocked roads, including sections of the Trans-Canada Highway and provincial border crossings.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre condemned the carbon tax hike, calling it a “cruel April Fools’ joke” amid rising living costs.

The protests are driven by concerns over affordability, with participants demanding an end to the carbon tax, arguing it contributes to financial burdens.

The nationwide protests, involving demonstrators from various provinces, express disappointment and call for government officials to take action.

Addressing the media today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the carbon tax hike, emphasizing that along with the carbon tax increase, rebates to citizens will also increase, with larger rebates expected on April 15.

“It’s money in the pockets of Canadians as we continue to push forward in the fight against climate change,” Trudeau said in an unrelated statement in Ottawa.

Trudeau told reporters on Monday that provinces always have the option to devise their own alternative plans, including minimum carbon pricing, but instead, many premiers have chosen to “complain about it and make a political issue out of it.”

“So, all these premiers who are busy complaining about the pollution price but not actually coming up with a specific alternative they think would be better for their community are just playing political games,” Trudeau added.

The event was organized by a group called the National Carbon Tax Protest, one of about 15 events taking place across the country, including Parliament Hill.

Demonstrators also temporarily blocked portions of the Trans-Canada Highway connecting Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as Alberta and British Columbia.

By midday Monday, dozens had gathered on Parliament Hill, some waving signs reading “cut taxes – axe the tax,” while others draped themselves in Canadian flags or carried crude messages about the prime minister.

Some premiers, including Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, have supported canceling the price hike due to affordability concerns. Alberta faced another tax increase on Monday as the provincial government fully reinstated fuel taxes, meaning a 4-cent-per-litre increase. The 13-cent-per-litre tax was suspended throughout 2023 and partially reinstated in January 2024.

Smith, along with other provincial leaders including Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, testified before a parliamentary committee last week about their opposition to the increase. Other premiers have written directly to Trudeau calling for a change in policy.

Over the weekend, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey called on Trudeau to hold “emergency meetings with leaders across the country” to discuss potential alternative options for federal carbon pricing.

Poilievre has deemed the carbon pricing and Monday’s price hike plan a pivotal issue, organizing “tax cut” protests across the country. He plans to hold another protest in Nanaimo tonight. The protests underscore growing dissatisfaction and spark new debates over carbon pricing policies in Canada.

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