Yellow vests in Canada call for an end to carbon tax

(Katarina Martins / The McGill Policy Association)

(Katarina Martins / The McGill Policy Association)

Across the Atlantic, the gilets jaunes or “yellow vests” have overtaken the streets of Paris and captured the French national conscience in a wave of opposition against President Emmanuel Macron’s policies. The weekly protests first began in early November as a grassroots movement opposing Macron’s planned rise in the tax on diesel and gas that was envisioned as part of the country’s transition to green energy. The movement’s impact has even spread to cities in Western Canada with more scheduled across the country. Inspired by the outcry in France, Canadian demonstrators have protested against the federal carbon tax, stalled pipeline projects, and oil sector layoffs.

carbon tax

The Government of Canada plans to impose a $20 per tonne carbon tax on Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Manitoba starting on April 1. However, Ottawa also announced that the average household in Ontario would receive a sizeable tax credit to compensate for the carbon tax. Despite efforts to even out its perceived financial burden, representatives of fuel-intensive industries in British Columbia stated  that it would place them at a disadvantage. When implemented, these measures would undermine their competitiveness in comparison to their American counterparts who have no additional costs imposed on them. The fervent push towards greener energy should not come as a surprise to many given that combating climate change was a priority in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s agenda when he took office four years ago. With such opposition to the carbon tax, Trudeau’s efforts are likely to be a key issue on the minds of voters in the upcoming federal elections. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has criticized Trudeau’s controversial carbon tax by calling it an “unfair tax burden and job killer.”


According to Charles Smith, an associate professor of political science at the University of Saskatchewan, the Canadian yellow vests movement originally targeted the federal Liberal party and its actions toward the oil industry. However, what began as opposition against the planned federal carbon tax has, for some, morphed into an anti-immigration platform. The small subsection of protestors in Edmonton, for example, claims that it does not oppose immigration entirely; rather, it desires a better process for vetting those who come into the country. Many are specifically concerned that immigrants place a strain on resources and ultimately fail to integrate into Canadian culture. Despite drawing their inspiration from the French gilets jaunes, Canadian protestors, who don similar fluorescent vests, have focused their fury on the carbon tax while also adding anti-immigration messages to their protests. With the federal elections around the corner,  opposition towards federal policies such as the carbon tax and Canada’s standing on immigration will remain key points for the Trudeau government to address if it wishes to overcome the tide of conservative sentiment.


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