Canada’s environment minister has backed off of a pledge to freeze the federal carbon tax at $50 per tonne. 

Catherine McKenna had previously said the carbon tax wouldn’t increase past that amount after 2022, but now an uptick isn’t being ruled out by her office. 

The news has sparked heavy criticism from the opposition Conservatives. 

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre condemned Mckenna’s flip-flop and said his party will continue to make the carbon tax a top priority during the upcoming federal election, scheduled for Oct. 21. 

“The cat’s out of the bag,” Poilievre said. 

“She admitted if re-elected the carbon tax will go much higher than the Liberals previously said. But what does this mean for Canadians?  It means thousands of dollars in higher costs for gas, heat, and groceries. It means that Liberals will raise taxes to fund more out-of-control spending.”

Back in June, a parliamentary budget office report concluded that Ottawa would have to increase its carbon levy to $102 per tonne to meet its international target for greenhouse gas emissions. 

McKenna said the $50 per tonne amount, which equates to roughly 11 cents per litre of gasoline, would not increase. 

The levy has been highly contested by conservative provincial governments who are fighting the tax in court. 

Although, a 2016 agreement signed by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, excluding Saskatchewan, agreed to Ottawa’s plan to put a levy on carbon emissions. 

The deal itself had said that the approach would be “reviewed by 2022 to confirm the path forward.”

The Liberals are now back peddling with an increase of more than $50 potentially expected. 

McKenna still says her party remains the only one in Canada with a clear and transparent plan on pollution pricing over the next for years.

Calgary-Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel says she disagrees with the carbon tax as a solution to control greenhouse gas emissions.

She adds that hard working Canadians should not be punished and more taxes won’t deter pollution in the future.

“This government has put forward policies that aren’t going to protect the environment but are actually going to make it harder for the people in our province to work,” Rempel said. 

“That’s an understatement and I also stand proud in terms of Canadian energy because this government has vilified Canadian energy. It’s not just Trudeau, but the NDP as well who have said that it’s a better alternative to important oil from countries like Saudi Arabia, that’s just crazy.”

The Conservatives plan to introduce tax credits for making homes more energy efficient and to look at ways for industries to adopt cleaner technologies.

Meanwhile, the Liberals stand by the carbon tax. 

McKenna said it will continue to be a critical part of Canada’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions. 

She adds that the feds will spend $60 billion over the next decade on energy efficient and low carbon technology, public transit and regulations to reduce the carbon content in fuels. 

Currently Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick do not have their own carbon prices or don’t meet the federal standards for one. 

The federal government released regulations last week that would see a carbon tax imposed as early as Jan. 1, 2020. 

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney kept a tax in place for larger industrial emitters like oil sands plants and coal-fired generating stations, but rolled back the amount from $30 a tonne under the NDP plan and froze it at $20. 

If a federal carbon tax is imposed in Alberta, large emitters would have to pay the provincial $20 per tonne, but then pay $30 in January, increasing to $40 in 2021 and $50 in 2022. 

If elected, the federal Conservatives say the carbon tax will be scrapped entirely.