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Poilievre blasts Charest’s ‘record of raising taxes’, compares him to Trudeau


‘Will it be more persuasive for us to have a Conservative who’s cut taxes for consumers like myself, or someone who’s raised taxes on consumers?’

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Conservative leadership contender Pierre Poilievre thinks that former Quebec premier Jean Charest’s “record” will speak for itself when it comes to raising taxes.

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In an interview with the National Post, Poilievre said that Conservatives have to ask themselves if they will be better served by Charest, who he says has a history of raising taxes on Canadians and Quebecers, or someone like him who served in Stephen Harper’s government.

“I think it’s an honest policy difference,” he said. “I support lower taxes on consumers. He has a record of raising taxes on consumers. He raised taxes on fuel. He raised the sales tax, and he made life more expensive for people when he was a provincial Liberal premier.

“I did the opposite. My record is that I voted to cut the GST, not raise it.”

Charest was indeed part of Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney’s government when it established the Goods and Services Tax, or GST, in 1991 at seven per cent. The Harper government went on to lower the GST after the 2006 election by two percentage points, to five per cent.

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As premier, Charest’s government did indeed boost the provincial sales tax by two points in 2011 and 2012, as well as increase fuel taxes and introduced an annual health fee in an effort to balance the province’s books. His successor Philippe Couillard went on to balance the budget.

I think it’s an honest policy difference

Nonetheless, these tax hikes are now serving Poilievre’s argument that Charest, who has not yet entered the Conservative leadership race but is seriously considering it, cannot be trusted with public funds and will be making life more expensive for Canadians.

“I think the question we have to ask ourselves as Conservatives is how can we win an election about affordability? Will it be more persuasive for us to have a Conservative who’s cut taxes for consumers like myself, or someone who’s raised taxes on consumers?” said Poilievre.

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Speaking in Saskatoon on Thursday, Poilievre went on to compare Charest to Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arguing that both politicians “believe in higher taxes on consumers.”

“Both of them raised taxes on consumers to make life less affordable for everyday working people and to raise more money for politicians like them to spend. I disagree with Charest and Trudeau. I believe we should leave more money in the pockets of Canadians,” he said.

Alberta MP and Poilievre supporter Shannon Stubbs had made a similar argument on social media the night before. She shared a picture of both Trudeau and Charest, with mentions of them both being or having been “Liberal” and having introduced a price on carbon.

Poilievre promised for his part to scrap the federal carbon tax if he is elected prime minister, adding that the fight against climate change should revolve around “technology, not taxes”.

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“That’s why my government will introduce plans that will incentivize carbon reducing technologies like the one which is being piloted and implemented right here in Saskatchewan,” he said while standing next to MPs Kelly Block, Brad Redekkop and Corey Tochor.

He also promised to let provinces “pursue their own approach” on climate change “without forcing them to impose devastating taxes”.

Poilievre’s announcement comes one day after Patrick Brown, mayor of Brampton, Ont., called on the federal government to freeze the federal carbon pricing increase planned on April 1. Brown is also rumoured to be interested in running for the federal Conservative leadership.

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“Patrick Brown has always supported carbon taxes in the past, but I’ll let that record speak for itself,” replied Poilievre when asked to comment on Brown’s proposition.

With the key dates of the leadership race now known, Charest, Brown, as well as MP Leslyn Lewis and political commentator Tasha Kheiriddin have until April 19 – a little over six weeks – to confirm that they will be running to become leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

The cut-off for membership sales will end on June 3. Mail-in ballots will be sent to members at the end of July or early August, and the result will be announced on September 10.

Poilievre, who announced a month ago that he was running for prime minister, has been aggressively data mining on social media. He is now touring parts of the country. He started his week in Montreal, and toured Saskatoon and Regina before coming back to Ottawa Friday.

He held a rally with 250 people and had “another big lunch” with approximately 150 people in Saskatoon. He also met with business groups and First Nations. And he saw the famous statue of a young John Diefenbaker selling a newspaper to then-Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Charest was continuing to meet with Conservative MPs. He met nearly 40 of them on Wednesday night and was meeting privately with about 15 more on Thursday. He has the support of six MPs and two senators until now.

More than 30 MPs and senators are backing Poilievre’s bid for leader.

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