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Danielle Smith, Conservative premiers continue to spar with Ottawa over carbon tax

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is among a group of Conservative provincial leaders continuing to push back against the federal carbon tax hike as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accuses them of "not telling the truth.”

On Wednesday, the PM said his pollution-pricing opponents are "misleading Canadians" when they don’t acknowledge the April 1 price increase coincides with an increase to the quarterly federal rebate households receive.

But according to Smith, that rebate is still not enough.

“Because the carbon tax is not rebated to businesses, every small business has to take the cost of that fuel and has to take the cost of the natural gas heating (and) work it into their prices.”

“That’s why it’s inflationary.”

Tensions have been high on Parliament Hill amid escalating Conservative-led opposition to the carbon tax, ahead of the incoming hike that will see the $65-per-tonne carbon price increase to $80 per tonne.

Premiers of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan have joined Smith in publishing letters asking to appear before the Liberal-led House Finance Committee to air their concerns.

With their request left unheeded — MPs are not sitting this week and most committees do not have meetings scheduled — Conservative MP and Government Operations and Estimates Committee chair Kelly McCauley decided to invite them instead.

Smith will appear on Thursday morning.

Is the carbon tax working?

Trudeau and his government have long insisted the pricing model is effective.

“Not only are we fighting climate change and reducing emissions, we’re putting more money back in the pockets of families,” he said Wednesday.

Both of those points have been disputed — but it’s the former that is a little trickier to parse out.

Only a handful of studies have looked into the effects of the policy on emissions reductions, and the vast majority are focused on European countries.

When CTV News asked a Calgary economist if the levy was helping fight the climate emergency, he answered with a short “sort of.”

“Given time, it will result in a reduction in consumption and a move towards cleaner energy,” Moshe Lander, a professor of economics at the University of Calgary, said.

“But in the short term, there’s very little change that’s going to happen because people are locked into their natural gas providers and addicted to their cars.”

It’s also tough to quantify because the tax isn’t Canada’s only climate-focused policy, and because the changes people make as a result are not easy to measure.

Between 2019 and 2021 – after the carbon price was first applied and through the latest year for which there is data – Canada's emissions overall fell by 53 million tonnes, but how much of that was due to carbon pricing is hard to say.

Lander believes the years-long political battle has hurt perception — and the opposition isn’t solely to blame for it.

“(The federal government) has completely mishandled what the objective is here, and how to sell it to Canadians, and that’s what’s giving the space for other parties that want to get rid of it,” Lander said. “It’s just tapping into anger and bad salesmanship.”

With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello

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