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Ford uses announcement of carbon tax referendum bill to take digs at Bonnie Crombie

Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement and answers questions at a press conference in Mississauga, Ont., Tuesday, February 13, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Ontario plans to introduce a law requiring any future government to put a new provincial carbon pricing program to a referendum, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday while using the opportunity to take shots at the new Liberal leader. 

He made the announcement in Mississauga, Ont., where Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie was until recently the mayor, and who recent polls suggest could pose a threat to Ford's Progressive Conservatives in the next election.

"People know where I stand on the carbon tax," Ford said at a news conference. "I've opposed it from the very beginning. My record couldn't be more different than Bonnie Crombie's."

Opposition parties called Ford's announcement "performative political games" and a "smokescreen."

Since Crombie became the front-runner in the Liberal leadership race in the fall, Ford and his caucus have often attacked the now-leader of the third place party, rather than spending time talking about the Official Opposition NDP.

"She supported the carbon tax right from the start," Ford said, parroting language used in Progressive Conservative attack ads against her.

"She's the queen of carbon tax. Even worse, she raised property taxes every year she was mayor. Bonnie has never seen a tax she wouldn't like to hike."

Crombie said in a written statement that Ford's tactics Tuesday were an attempt to distract Ontarians "with grandstanding ploys about federal debates."

"If he was actually interested in hearing what Ontarians thought, he would have held a referendum before selling off our healthcare system, the Greenbelt, and ServiceOntario," she wrote.

The carbon pricing referendum legislation announced Tuesday would just refer to provincial measures, not the federal carbon pricing system that went into effect in Ontario after Ford's government cancelled the previous provincial Liberal government's cap-and-trade program.

The government said the carbon pricing referendum legislation will be part of a larger bill titled the Get It Done Act, to be introduced after the legislature resumes sitting next week. 

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner urged Ford to focus on issues such as long ER wait times, high housing costs and financial struggles facing post-secondary institutions.

"Instead of taking political pot shots, why doesn’t this government try tackling any of the problems Ontarians are facing right now?" Schreiner wrote in a statement.

NDP Leader Marit Stiles said the announcement is "clearly a smokescreen" to distract from an ongoing criminal RCMP investigation into the now-reversed decision to open the Greenbelt for housing, a health-care crisis and loss in court on a wage restraint law.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 13, 2024.

Allison Jones and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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