Caroline Mulroney has joined fellow Ontario PC leadership hopeful Doug Ford in ruling out a carbon tax and blowing a massive hole in the party's platform months before a provincial election.
"I'm a conservative and I'm not in favour of a new tax, especially Justin Trudeau's carbon tax," Mulroney said in a statement released Thursday.
Mulroney said that she consulted with hundreds of party members, as well as MPPs and candidates, and that it's clear that the PC grassroots doesn't support the tax.
"In Kathleen's Wynne's Ontario life is unaffordable and the last thing we should consider is a new tax," she said in the release. "As the leader of our party I will not support a carbon tax. As premier of Ontario I am going to explore options to oppose it."
Days earlier, Mulroney hinted that despite a personal aversion to taxes, she would stick with the plan laid out by Brown to replace the Ontario Liberal government's cap-and-trade climate plan with a carbon tax. She noted that the Trudeau government is seeking to force provinces to do one or the other.
"This is something the federal government is imposing on all of the provinces,'' she said at the time. "We have a choice to let them keep the revenue and administer it or we can make sure that we ... put the money back in people's pockets. I think we would be better suited to doing that than the Liberals are.''
Ford vows to fight PM on issue
At a rally in Toronto on Saturday night, Ford — a populist who served one term on city council there — promised to fight tooth and nail against a federally imposed carbon tax if elected premier in June.
"I will not support policies and taxes that make life more expensive," Ford said. "And if the prime minister tries to make us — well, in the words of his father — 'Just watch me.'''
In response to Mulroney's announcement, Ford took to Twitter Thursday to say he is the "only candidate who has been unequivocal in opposition to the carbon tax."
The @OntarioPCParty needs a decisive leader that will take firm positions. I am the only candidate who has been unequivocal in opposition to the carbon tax and and have been clear since day one. I will axe the Carbon Tax.... Just watch me. #PCPO #onpoli— Doug Ford (@fordnation) February 8, 2018
But there's a big catch to scrapping the tax — something that some have dubbed a $4-billion question confronting the would-be Ontario Tory leaders.
The so-called "People's Guarantee" unveiled by Brown — the PC platform Mulroney agreed to run on when she announced her candidacy for a seat in York-Simcoe — pledged a PC government would opt into federal carbon pricing benchmarks by July 2019 and return revenues to taxpayers by way of big tax cuts and spending.
The fiscal plan in the PC platform estimated a carbon tax would yield $320-million in 2019-2020, $1.36-billion in 2020-21, and $2.4-billion in 2021-2022.
That money is central to paying for big ticket promises in the platform, including reducing the middle class tax rate by 22.5 per cent and lowest bracket by 10 per cent, a further 12 per cent slash on hydro bills, and a refund for childcare expenses.
Mulroney: 'The platform itself does endorse the carbon tax'
Mulroney was a guest on CFRA's "The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll" Thursday. Carroll noted that while a platform has already been laid out and contenders are being "asked to try to stick to it" to avoid chaos, her carbon tax stance throws a wrench in that strategy.
"You are not completely in favour of the platform as it stood under Patrick Brown," he said.
"Well, look, the platform itself does endorse the carbon tax," Mulroney responded. "And I, as a conservative, am against new taxes. And I've said that. So that includes a carbon tax."
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"The platform was developed as a result of a grassroots process and there's so many great policies in there. As I'm meeting with members, I'm going to talk about how to draw on those ideas so I can put forward my own plan."
Former MPP Christine Elliott, who is also running for PC leader, told the National Post last week that while she is not personally in favour of a carbon tax, she wants to speak with the PC caucus and candidates to chart the best path forward.
Elliott asked PC members to fill out an online survey to let her know where they stand on the matter. The exercise helped her campaign harvest data, such as the email addresses and phone numbers of potential supporters.
On Thursday afternoon, Elliott tweeted the survey "confirmed" PC members don't want a carbon tax.
I've been a party member for over 20 years. I've always opposed a carbon tax. I knew our members would agree — our survey confirmed that! Now, I'm ready to take the fight to Kathleen Wynne. Are you ready? pic.twitter.com/33R4CbbOUU— Christine Elliott (@celliottability) February 8, 2018
With files from The Canadian Press
Earlier: Doug Ford on 'bad' carbon tax