Carbon tax cover-up?

If the federal Liberal government truly believed in carbon taxing, it would come clean on the potential cost to Canadians, Conservative critic Pierre Poilievre charged Tuesday in a sneak preview of the protracted partisan barrage Finance Minister BIll Morneau was likely to face later in the day.

Poilievre was set to face off against Morneau in a four-hour, marathon Commons session later Tuesday evening, keen to crack the minister's message-track veneer and expose what the government's carbon pricing plan will cost an average Canadian family.

Poilievre got the ball rolling earlier in the day during question period, accusing the government of an ongoing "carbon tax cover-up," refusing to say how much more families can expect to have to pay for everything from gasoline to home heating to groceries as a result of the measure.

"If this is anything more than a tax grab, why will the government not end the carbon tax cover-up and tell us what this tax will cost the average Canadian household?" Poilievre asked.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna fielded that one, accusing the Conservatives of denying both the existence of climate change and the economic opportunity it poses in fostering growth in clean technology.

"Canadians know that polluting is not free; it is having an impact right now," McKenna said.

"Canadians are paying billions of dollars in insurance costs, but there is also a huge economic opportunity. Since members of the party opposite like talking about jobs, then maybe they should get on the bandwagon, because there is a $23-trillion opportunity in clean growth."

It is an argument sure to persist into next year's election campaign. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has promised to scrap the Liberal scheme, saying he will have a plan of his own to meet Canada's international emissions targets without putting a tax on carbon.

Canada's 2030 target is to cut emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels. Carbon pricing is the most cost-effective, efficient way to get there, says McKenna; any other plan would require regulations and policies that would likely cost industry and families far more than a carbon price.

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