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Commentary: Black pot, say hello to similarly-coloured kettle

Carbon tax exemption for heating oil was instigated despite years of preaching we should follow the science
Nelson Chris web
Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.

Once politicians start talking about morality you know they’re on the ropes.

Especially when the politician in question is none other than our federal Environment Minister Steve Guilbeault, who recently launched a scathing attack on Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, after that province announced it wouldn’t be remitting carbon taxes to Ottawa, collected from natural gas sales. 

“If he wants to start breaking laws and not respecting federal laws, then measures will have to be taken. It's irresponsible and it's frankly immoral on his part,” was how an angry Guilbeault described Moe’s rather dramatic action.

Black pot, say hello to similarly-coloured kettle. Because, coming from the man known across Quebec as The Green Jesus of Montreal, that takes some rather impressive nerve.

Albertans might recall it was Guilbeault, then an ardent Greenpeace activist, who led a posy of his fellow enviro-warriors onto the roof of Premier Ralph Klein’s Calgary home back in 2001, to erect a solar panel as a lame publicity stunt. Ralph’s wife Colleen was alone and, as strangers clambered onto her roof, believed it was some bizarre home invasion.

So, when it comes to illegality, immorality and irresponsibility we’re dealing with a past expert in Guilbeault. Oh, but what a difference a nice suit and a sumptuous cabinet salary makes. He should enjoy them while he can, because the clock’s ticking on his political career.

But to regress a little: why would a prairie premier such as Moe hold onto cash that is indeed dutifully owed to Ottawa?

Because Justin Trudeau’s government had previously decided to exempt heating oil from their much-vaunted carbon levy platform, following desperate pleas from Grit MPs in the Maritimes who saw their popularity sink faster than the Titanic’s post-iceberg, due to the extra cost those levies were placing upon their previously loyal constituents. 

Of course, Guilbeault subsequently bent the knee, as many former revolutionaries have done before, by accepting this callous jettisoning of the once-sacred green agenda. (Come on, this is the Liberal Party of Canada we’re talking about. You don’t become one of the planet’s most successful political entities by having principles. It’s all about where the votes can be harvested, next time around.)

And that’s the bigger problem for Guilbeault and the entire carbon tax experiment.

In true Grit fashion this exemption for heating oil was instigated despite years of preaching we should follow the science. They simply followed the polls instead. When the environment was top of mind – usually for us fickle humans when other things are going well - that’s what the Grits pushed. When such interest slides then it’s time for a callous rethink.

And slide it is doing. A recent Leger poll showed more than two-thirds of Canadians opposed yet another planned hike in green levies on April 1. No doubt resurgent inflation reminded people the cost of food and shelter matters more than the threat of some blistering future summer. Shortsighted no doubt, but it’s a similar reaction from billions across our planet, who face much more challenging economic conditions than Canadians.

It’s sad, but it’s reality. And the Liberals are as realistic as any political party on earth.

So, Guilbeault will be the sacrificial lamb. The Grits won’t risk going into a future election with a minister who suddenly announces Canada doesn’t need any new roads, as he did a few weeks back. And he’s hardly suitable for some other cabinet post.

Oh well, he’ll get to keep the suit and the pension plan. The bigger question is will these carbon taxes die a similar death as Guilbeault’s career. Bet on it.

Chris Nelson is a syndicated columnist.

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