OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said he would fulfill a promise to impose a carbon tax on provinces unwilling to combat climate change, prompting instant protests from a voter-rich part of the country.
Trudeau, whose ruling Liberals face an election in October 2019, told a news conference that all the money collected would be returned directly to taxpayers in the four provinces without plans to curb the emission of greenhouse gases.
Starting in April 2019 carbon pollution will initially cost C$20 ($15.27) a tonne, rising by C$10 a year until it reaches C$50 in 2022. Ottawa unveiled the proposal in 2016.
“Putting a price on pollution is the best way to fight climate change,” said Trudeau.
Official data regularly shows that Canada has little chance of meeting its climate change goals of reducing emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Canada’s Conservatives, the largest opposition party in the federal Parliament, say they will scrap the levy if they take power next year.
Party leader Andrew Scheer, who has yet to unveil his own climate change plan, dismissed the tax as “an election gimmick.”
The new tax will have the most impact in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, where the new right-of-center Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford says it will take Ottawa to court over the plan.
“The Trudeau carbon tax will force our seniors to pay more for home heating ... (and) make parents pay more to fill up their car when they drive their children to and from soccer practice,” Ford tweeted.
Trudeau’s chances of retaining power next year depend largely on Ontario, where the Liberals already hold most of province’s seats in the national Parliament.
Ford moved to end Ontario’s cap-and-trade program in July on the grounds it was a “cash grab”.
In energy-rich Alberta, the left-leaning government looks set to lose an election next year to a right-wing party that also opposes a carbon tax.
The new levy will also be imposed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as New Brunswick.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters that life in the province” is going to cost a whole lot more now”.
Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada welcomed the news, saying Ottawa “has done what is necessary to get this important tool in play while easing any financial burden it may have on Canadians”.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Tom Brown