Premier Doug Ford was a surprise guest speaker at the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s March Classic trade show at RBC Place London in London on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press

An apparent shot at the prime minister and his government’s carbon tax by Ontario’s premier during a London stop Tuesday didn’t amuse one of the city’s two Liberal MPs, who accused Doug Ford of always wanting to be the “funny one in the room.”

Premier Doug Ford lit up the federal carbon tax, which is rising April 1, in a speech to hundreds of Ontario grain farmers at the 2024 March Classic – Eastern Canada’s largest grain-focused conference – at RBC Place London convention centre.

“You know all it does is gouge people,” Ford told producers at the Grain Growers of Ontario conference.

“I don’t know what the guy is smoking up there, but (the tax) is not beneficial,” he said, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “It hurts people, everything from transporting goods from point A to point B, (to) going to pick your kids up at a hockey game or sports facility.”

Whether Ford was referring to Trudeau specifically isn’t clear, because Ford’s office didn’t respond to a London Free Press request for comment, but Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos didn’t find it funny when told of the Progressive Conservative premier’s remarks.

“The premier is known as someone who takes a particular approach to politics, and he wants to be the funny one in the room,” the London North Centre MP said.

“While it might be good for a laugh in a room, and the premier might feel good about himself, (and) his ego might be boosted by something like that, I don’t think it does much for the average Ontarian.”

The carbon tax is set to increase “by a staggering 23 per cent,” on April 1, Ford said, calling it a “big scheme” or “scam.”

A carbon tax is designed to aid the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But Ford said it takes money out of people’s pockets and will “increase the cost of every product you produce.”

But Fragiskatos fired back, saying it was Ford who “in effect . . . wants to take that money out of the pockets of Ontario families.”

Federal officials have said a rebate system ensures the vast majority of Canadians get back more than they pay in carbon taxes in rebates, with the benefits weighted to aid lower-income families.

Fragiskatos said eight out of 10 Canadians get more than they put in, and “the average family of four will get over $1,300.”

To combat a future carbon tax increase, Ford told the audience last month his government introduced legislation to require future Ontario governments to hold a referendum before “imposing a carbon tax scheme.”

Elgin-Middlesex-London Tory MPP Rob Flack, speaking before Ford’s speech, also voiced concern with Ottawa’s “punitive” carbon tax increase.

“Let’s be blunt. We can’t afford this carbon tax coming down on April 1,” Flack said. “It’s going to cost Ontario grain and oilseed farmers a lot of money that they can’t pass on to consumers.”

Citing Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) figures, Flack said, “by 2030, they estimate that up to $2.7 billion of the carbon tax will be paid by these farmers.”

Flack championed the provincial government’s stand on the agriculture industry.

“I don’t think you’re ever going to find a government that’s more friendly to farmers and agri-food at least in my time,” he said.

Newly elected GFO chair Jeff Harrison, a soybean, corn and wheat farmer from Quinte West, about 170 kilometres east of Toronto, said Ford’s government has been a good listener, adding the carbon tax affects everyone, and drives costs up.

Harrison said he couldn’t quantify exactly how much the 23 per cent increase would affect his farm, but it “has a negative effect in a time where commodity prices are low.”

Asked about the premier’s “smoking” comment, Harrison replied: “I don’t know who he was referring to exactly, but all I can tell you is whatever they are smoking, I hope it’s Ontario-grown.”

Ford told the audience one of his plans, the Building Ontario Business initiative, was introduced last year to level the playing field for Ontario businesses, including in agri-food, and he anticipated it would lead to $3 billion in contract awards to Ontario companies across all sectors through 2026.

“We’re leveraging our province’s immense buying power to buy from Ontario, to buy local, giving our farmers and producers a hand up and strengthening our domestic supply chains,” he said. “(We’ll) always have your backs, and I love the farmers in our agri-food industry and its workers.”

bwilliams@postmedia.com

By Brian Williams, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 20, 2024 at 09:54

This item reprinted with permission from   London Free Press   London, Ontario
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