As of now, the planned hike in the federal carbon tax is going ahead as planned (photo: The Star)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is refusing to say whether the planned increase to the carbon tax next week will still happen, even as record numbers of Canadians are left unemployed and dealing with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Journalists who attended the prime minister’s daily briefing on the coronavirus from Rideau Cottage asked him whether that increase will be put on pause or still go ahead.

“We know that it is important that we put more money in the pockets of Canadians at this point when they’re stressed,” he said in response.

“Our plan on pricing pollution puts more money upfront into people’s pockets than they would pay with the new price on pollution. We’re going to continue to focus on putting more money in people’s pockets to support them right across the country.”

A reporter pushed back on the vague answer: “So yes or no? On carbon tax, will it go out next week?

Trudeau again dodged the question and refused to give a clear answer.

“We continue to make sure that people have more money in their pockets because that is how we designed the price on pollution.”

 

The carbon tax is scheduled to increase from $20 per tonne to $30 per tonne on April 1. For consumers, that translates to an extra 2.5 cents per litre of gasoline.

Earlier in the week, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association issued a statement urging the federal government to cancel the scheduled increase, citing strains on household expenses.

“The Canadian economy is facing a serious challenge. Adding a 50 per cent increase in the carbon tax is a further hit to grain farmers’ bottom line and Canadian consumers’ food bills. Now is not the time to be to be adding to our household expenses,” said Gunter Jochum, president of the advocacy group.

“Our focus should be on the health and economic well-being of all Canadians.”

Despite record numbers of Canadians seeking unemployment assistance and thousands of businesses facing bankruptcy, it appears the cost of living is about to become even more difficult in these trying times.

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