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Prime Minister Trudeau talks carbon tax, Chignecto Isthmus and future of the RCMP

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat down Monday for an interview with CTV Atlantic’s Todd Battis. The one-on-one covered a range of topics, including carbon pricing, the future of the RCMP and the relationship between the federal government and Atlantic premiers.

CARBON TAX

Trudeau’s federal government has faced backlash in recent weeks for the federal carbon-pricing program that came into effect across Atlantic Canada on July 1.

The move, which came as a result of the provinces failing to implement their own alternative carbon-pricing program, has caused gas prices to rise. Some Atlantic Canadians are wondering whether their Climate Action Incentive Payment will make up for the extra costs associated with clean fuel regulations.

The Atlantic premiers have spent the last several weeks on an anti-carbon tax campaign.

In Nova Scotia, where Premier Tim Houston has called for Trudeau to sit down with the premiers to discuss carbon pricing, the province’s department of Environment and Climate Change spent $56,000 in taxpayer dollars for a two-week advertising campaign opposing a carbon tax.

But Trudeau says the quarterly Climate Action Incentive cheques that have begun being deposited into the bank accounts of Nova Scotians and Prince Edward Islanders ensure the federal government can fight climate change while putting money back in the pockets of Canadians in the process.

“There’s been a lot of partisan attacks around this, but the one thing that Premier Houston nor Pierre Poilievre or others talk about is these cheques are supporting Canadians directly with real dollars that are landing in their bank accounts this week,” Trudeau told Battis.

He noted that Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has offered to meet with the Atlantic premiers following her commitments at the G20 meetings in India.

“I’m happy to talk about carbon pricing with anyone who wants to talk about it,” said Trudeau.

The prime minister pointed out that the Parliament Budget Officer (PBO) says “eight out of 10 Canadians will be better off” on the carbon-pricing program, but the PBO argues Nova Scotians will pay more, on average, than they get back.

That’s why, Trudeau says, recipients in rural areas receive a 10 per cent top-up on their Climate Action Incentive cheque.

While the incentive may not benefit everyone, Trudeau believes it is necessary as the country grapples with more frequent extreme weather events, along with additional costs associated with supporting people impacted by climate change.

“Extreme weather events are a reality. Fighting climate change is a reality,” Trudeau told Battis. “We have to do it in a way that both supports families and prepares us to be competitive and have a growing economy.”

Asked what the incentive for Maritimers to move off fossil fuels will be if they are getting money back in the form of a rebate, Trudeau countered that the price on pollution affects emitters like businesses, factories and companies that fail to make upgrades that are fuel-efficient. The real incentives, Trudeau argued, come through energy-efficiency programs, like the $10,000 grant Nova Scotians can apply for to replace their oil-burning furnace with a heat pump.

“They are incentives that are going to help people as we try to do more to reduce emissions, as we stay competitive, as the world is moving in this direction, we’re supporting families as we create those great jobs,” said Trudeau.

CHIGNECTO ISTHMUS

Premiers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are threatening to take the federal government to court unless it agrees to fully fund the cost of protecting the Chignecto Isthmus. Maintaining the position that it’s a federal responsibility, they are refusing to do a cost-sharing deal.

This week, the two premiers will meet with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc to discuss the future funding for the isthmus.

Trudeau acknowledged the federal government has responsibilities to protect the isthmus, but argues it’s a shared responsibility with the provinces and private stakeholders.

The federal government has offered to pay for half of the project, at a sum of $200 million.

“The provinces can share the other $200 million,” he told Battis, noting they have until Wednesday to make a request for the federal funding.

“That’s unfortunate for the future of people in Nova Scotia if provinces, including Nova Scotia that has a budgetary surplus right now, isn’t going to protect the livelihoods of people when the federal government is coming in with $200 million to do just that.”

But Houston feels Nova Scotians shouldn’t have to give up funds that would pay for crises in health care and housing.

“The premier gets to decide how he wants to spend Nova Scotia’s tax dollars,” said Trudeau. “But the federal government is willing to be there with $200 million to protect a critical piece of infrastructure and I really hope he puts in an application in the next few days.”

When it comes to the relationship between the prime minister and the Atlantic premiers, Trudeau noted “we work together on big things all the time for the benefit of people.”

He pointed to recent health-care agreements, as well as cutting child-care fees in half, as examples of the provinces and federal governments working together effectively to make the lives of Canadians better.

“We just disagree, for example, on the need to fight climate change and put more money back in people’s pockets.”

POLICING

Asked about the possibility of the RCMP transforming into a federal investigative force like the American Federal Bureau of Investigation, Trudeau pointed to reports like the inquiry that examined the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting, which concluded that a new model of policing is needed in Canada, for possible steps forward.

“I think one of the things about the extraordinary work done by the Mass Casualty Commission was a really thoughtful look at lines of accountability and who is responsible and who is accountable for various local policing, for national policing and all those things,” said Trudeau. “I think a mature country needs to have these conversations and I think they are being had.”

The prime minister says that inquiry is no outlier, noting that there have been multiple reports in recent years that have concluded the RCMP “needs to do a better job of responding particularly around community needs.”

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