Environment Minister's Denial He’s Planning to Implement a Truck Tax Draws Skepticism

Environment Minister's Denial He’s Planning to Implement a Truck Tax Draws Skepticism
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault rises during question period in the House of Commons on April 4, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Lee Harding

Canada's federal environment minister denies he will implement a tax on pickup trucks proposed in the government’s emissions reduction plan, but a taxpayer advocate, opposition MP, and political scientist remain wary.

The 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan recommends that the federal government “broaden Canada’s existing Green Levy (Excise Tax) for Fuel Inefficient Vehicles to include additional ICE [Internal Combustion Engine] vehicle types, such as pickup trucks.”

“A sliding scale for the implementation of this Green Levy should be developed based on the emissions produced from different vehicles,” it continued.

The proposal was made by the government’s Net Zero Advisory Board and included in an annex of the 271-page document. It was first drawn to public attention by Kris Sims in an April 14 opinion article for the Toronto Sun. The B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation wrote, “The Trudeau government is planning to hit Canadians with a big new tax … [that] would cost an extra $1,000 on a Ford F-150, and a Ram 3500 heavy-duty pickup truck would get hit with a $4,000 tax.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took to twitter to express his disapproval, as did Conservative MP and leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, who said the Liberal government would “slap thousands in new taxes on anyone who buys a truck.”

In a response on Twitter, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault called the claim “another example of a Conservative politician & organization spreading disinformation to serve their own partisan interests.”

“This so-called fee on trucks doesn't exist,” he wrote. “It’s fear mongering, plain and simple. They pretend a recommendation from an independent advisory body in the annex of a report is government policy.”

The Epoch Times asked Guilbeault’s office whether a truck tax had been ruled out. Director of communications Oliver Anderson replied by email: “These baseless claims are purely political. … The recommendation comes from the independent net-zero advisory group and it is not at all being considered.”

Sims says Anderson’s comment comes as news to her.

“That's the only thing they've said that even indicates that they might not do it … which is weird because they included it in their study. It's right in their report … with a foreword by the minister. So I 100 percent stand by every word of my [Toronto Sun] piece,” she said in an interview.

In his introduction to the report, Guilbeault said: “This is our ambitious and achievable roadmap to reach our emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement. It reflects the input of thousands of Canadians.”

Sims believes the report proves that the government “is darn well thinking about” the truck tax, and that watchdog organizations like hers should bark before a threat becomes real, instead of afterwards.

“If you fast-forwarded say a year from now, and they trot out a pickup truck tax and then we sounded the alarm, they'd say, 'Oh, well, it was in our reports. Why didn't you speak up back then?' This is a game that they play,” she said.

In 2007, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced the excise tax on new vehicles with fuel efficiency ratings of 13L/100 km, but pickup trucks were explicitly excluded. Sims said it should surprise no one that the current Liberal government, which wants to eventually ban gas-powered vehicles, might tax them.

“I think they are actually really sensitive about this right now because a lot of average working people can't afford to fill up their vehicles to drive to work, and they're really getting pinched by inflation. So affordability is a major topic right now,” she said. “But if they were a bit worried about it, they shouldn't have included it in their report.”

Barry Cooper, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, believes a truck tax both aligns with the Liberal government’s objectives and targets a demographic with few Liberal voters, including Albertans.

“There's probably [someone] in his office that said, ‘Let's go after pickups, because there aren't any in Ottawa, they're out there,’ meaning in Western Canada, where the [political] costs will be zero,” Cooper told The Epoch Times.

“They know perfectly well that there's nothing they could do that would ever get us to vote for them, so they may as well take the boots to us, which is what they do every which way from Sunday, and this is just another example of it.”

Cooper believes there’s an outside chance the government’s strident denials may make implementation of a truck tax too politically embarrassing, at least for now.

“If [Guilbeault] says we're not going to do this, he means we're not going to do it today,” he said.

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