In highway protest west of Calgary, protesters call for federal carbon tax to be abolished

Demonstrations begin Monday at locations across Canada, and are planned to continue until tax is rescinded

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Dozens of people gathered on the Trans-Canada Highway at Highway 22 west of Calgary as part of a nationwide protest against the federal carbon tax, which increased Monday.

Protesters called for the tax — levied on individuals, families, small and medium-sized businesses, First Nations and public institutions such as cities and schools — to be abolished.

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The demonstration was one of several across the country Monday, with plans to continue them until the tax is rescinded, organizers said.

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Shaun Derman was one of many who stood at the side of the highway, holding a sign that read “axe the tax.”

“It’s a nationwide carbon tax protest, but they’re going to have to have petitions and everything to try and stop the carbon tax,” he said.

“I come out for the protests because I believe there should be a Western Canada now — stop the carbon tax, stop the transfer payments to the east, stop it all.”

The federal carbon tax and its associated rebates rose Monday from $65 per tonne of carbon emissions to $80.

Gas, diesel, propane and natural gas prices will increase — some by cents, and in other industries by as much as nearly $2.

Derman criticized the tax for causing an increase in the cost of gas, groceries and other consumer goods.

“I’d like to have more people aware of it so that more people will get involved,” he said.

Gas prices in Calgary
Gas prices increased throughout the city as the carbon tax came into effect in Calgary on Monday, April 1, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Several RCMP vehicles were parked nearby, and police advised motorists of potential delays on Highway 1. The protest continued through 7 p.m., forcing the RCMP to divert traffic off Highway 1. The diversion ended at around 7:30 p.m.

“If you have travel plans in this area during this time, consider alternate routes,” Mounties said in a written statement issued Monday morning. “Alberta RCMP and partner organizations will be present to ensure that the impact on travellers will be minimized and to ensure traffic disruption will not affect public safety.”

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Members of the Calgary Police Service’s public safety unit were on hand to assist — “a normal practice in these types of events,” according to the service.

Protesters speak out against carbon tax

One protester who drove from B.C. and wished to remain anonymous called the carbon tax “atrocious”, saying it affects everybody.

Pointing to the Petro-Canada gas station at the Highway 22-TransCanada interchange nearby, the protester said she noticed a 30-cent increase at the pump from Sunday night to Monday morning.

“I’ve talked to people today who cannot afford fuel to go to work . . . how can they make the money to live?” she said.

The increase in the federal carbon tax comes at a time when Canadian members of Parliament will get their customary pay raise on April 1, resulting in increases of anywhere between $8,500 and $17,000 this year.

“Did you know Justin Trudeau and his cabinet got raises today? On the very day that he decides to empty Canadians’ bank accounts a little bit more. That’s why we’re here.

“There are more people in this country that are not fine, and it’s getting worse.”

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Carbon tax protest on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary
Demonstrators line the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary protesting the carbon tax on Monday, April 1, 2024. The Trans-Canada was reduced to one lane by the demonstrators west of the Highway 22 junction. Brent Calver/Postmedia

Some provinces have called on Ottawa to cancel the hike because of the affordability crisis. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the increase also means larger quarterly rebate cheques.

Trudeau has accused conservative premiers of lying about the policy’s effect on inflation and has challenged his provincial critics to present alternative plans to reduce emissions.

Protester Judy Martens said people are running out of options, and the demonstration is one way everyone can come together to oppose the carbon tax.

“Seeing what’s happening to Canada, seeing how everybody’s starting to suffer more and more . . . my hometown never had a tent city; now there’s a giant tent city,” she said.

Trans-Canada Highway carbon tax protest west of Calgary
Demonstrators gather on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary to protest the federal carbon tax on Monday, April 1, 2024. The gathering reduced Highway 1 to a single westbound lane just west of the Highway 22 junction. Brent Calver/Postmedia

Alberta gas tax increase goes into effect

Alberta was hit with another hike Monday as the provincial government fully reinstated its fuel tax, meaning an increase of four cents per litre. The 13-cents-per-litre tax was suspended for all of 2023 and partially reinstated in January 2024.

Gary Lambert of Innisfail, a military veteran, said he’s upset about both federal and provincial tax hikes.

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“People gotta realize it’s not just the one tax,” he said.

Allan Hunter of Airdrie said he was also troubled by the double whammy.

“The Alberta gas tax increase is a bit hypocritical of the (United Conservative Party government), but the carbon tax isn’t just about the carbon going in your tank,” said Hunter.

“Everything you purchase, every one of these trucks going by, every one of these cars going by, everything we consume in this country is going up today.

“Thanks Justin, you just made things even less affordable for Canadians.”

Carbon tax protesters on Parliament Hill, across the country

Elsewhere in Canada, dozens of people gathered on Parliament Hill, some waving “axe the tax” signs while others draped themselves in Canadian flags or expletive-laced messages about the prime minister.

Protesters also temporarily blocked part of the Trans-Canada Highway linking Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan and Alberta.

TV reports showed demonstrators near Aulac, N.B., carrying signs that read “Axe the tax” and “Trudeau must go.”

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One eastbound lane was open for commercial vehicles only, and one westbound lane had reopened to all traffic, but motorists travelling between the two provinces were advised to expect delays, said New Brunswick RCMP.

In British Columbia, BC United Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon joined about 70 protesters in Richmond.

Falcon said the 23 per cent increase in the levy is a “cruel April Fool’s joke” on B.C. residents, especially those who pay the highest gas taxes in the country.

John Rustad, the leader of the Conservative Party of BC, also attended the rally. He said by 2030 the average family of four will have paid close to $27,000 in the carbon fees.

Carbon tax protest on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Calgary
Protesters along Highway 1 at the Cochrane turn off rally against the carbon tax on Monday, April 1, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Monday’s carbon tax increase will be noticed most with the price of gasoline and diesel. Clothing and food costs may be indirectly affected, but the effect of the increase has yet to be determined.

Drivers in the Calgary region experienced an increase in fuel prices last week, ahead of the carbon tax hike and a simultaneous increase in the provincial gas tax.

Trudeau points to rebate cheques

Trudeau and other carbon pricing proponents say critics are ignoring the fact that Canadian families receive quarterly rebate cheques, which are more generous to low-income households, to help them offset the upfront costs.

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The federal government increased the quarterly carbon rebate amounts to keep up with the cost increase. Albertans will be getting $225 for a single person, $337.50 for a couple and $450 for a family of four. Rural residents are to receive 20 per cent more.

The next rebate is due April 15.

Carbon tax supporters point to the costs climate change has imposed on Canadians through disasters such as wildfires and floods.

Last week, some 200 economists and academics from universities across the country released an open letter defending carbon pricing as the most low-cost way to reduce emissions, as opposed to imposing stricter regulations.

— With files from Mackenzie Rhode and The Canadian Press

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