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Conservatives will focus on affordability in 2023: Scheer

Opposition House Leader Andrew Scheer says Conservative MPs will continue to focus on tackling the cost-of-living crisis and quashing the Liberals’ carbon tax in the new year.

Making life more affordable for Canadians, he said, is the number one priority in 2023.

“That’s the five-alarm fire that Canadians are experiencing,” he told Glen McGregor on CTV’s Question Period in a year-end interview airing Sunday.

Scheer said the cost of living is the main concern of his constituents, a problem he blames on the Liberals’ spending driving up inflation.

“We’re going to stay focused on fighting that inflation,” he said, adding scrapping the carbon tax would also make certain expenses, like home heating, more affordable for Canadians.

Scheer said fighting back against the Liberals’ carbon price will also remain a top priority next year, as Conservative MPs repeat their calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel his plans to “triple, triple, triple” the tax.

In response to questions about a Conservative climate plan to replace the carbon pricing system, Scheer said despite Trudeau being prime minister for seven years, he doesn’t believe the Liberals have presented a credible climate plan.

“He still doesn’t have a climate plan, he’s got a tax plan that has failed in reducing emissions,” Scheer said, repeating a Conservative Party criticism of the carbon tax. “It’s succeeded in making the cost of everything go up, but it hasn’t helped him hit a single target that he set for himself.”

“Our focus will be on reducing emissions through incentives, through investments in technology and in innovative ways to reduce our carbon footprint as a country, but not by raising the cost of everyday essentials,” he also said.

Scheer also touched on other big stories of the year, including the trucker protest that gridlocked downtown Ottawa in January and February. Scheer was among several Conservative MPs who showed support for the protesters at the time, and he said he stands by that decision now, despite Nanos Research polling showing most Canadians would hold a negative view of a politician who supported the demonstrations.

“Standing up for people’s individual liberty and freedom is always the right thing to do,” Scheer said, adding he considers Trudeau’s and some provincial governments’ decision to renew pandemic measures as the catalyst for the trucker protests.

“It doesn’t matter to me what polls say about fighting for individual liberty and the rights of people to make their own health care decisions, the right to express themselves, and the right to peacefully protest,” Scheer also said. “I don’t look at polls when it comes to supporting those individuals who are fighting for those freedoms. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

While the Conservatives began 2022 under Erin O’Toole’s leadership, another lost general election in late 2021 and disagreements within the party led to the third leader in five years being ousted by caucus and stepping down in February.

Longtime MP Pierre Poilievre took over the top spot in a majority win on the first ballot in September after a six-month leadership contest marked by vitriol and personal attacks.

During the race, candidates sold record memberships and the Conservative Party grew to become the largest party in Canadian history.

Scheer commended Poilievre for uniting the party after his victory and helping thousands of Canadians engage with politics and the Conservative Party.

“If you look at Pierre’s amazing leadership campaign, he has broken the mold on so much of leadership and politics,” he said. “[There was] massive new engagement in our party rallies that had thousand and thousands of people out there, many of whom had never been to a political event in their life.”

It’s unlikely however Poilievre will go head to head in a general election against Trudeau too soon. The Liberal-NDP supply-and-confidence agreement—struck in March—is intended to prop up the Trudeau government until 2025 in exchange for progress on certain policy priorities. But cracks in the deal may be starting to show, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh threatening this week he will pull his support if the healthcare crisis does not improve quickly.

Scheer said he won’t wade into speculation as to how long the deal will last or whether it will end and there will be an election in the next two years.

“I try not to spend too much time analyzing the stars, so to speak, and predict when that’s going to be,” he said. “But I do know that if our party stays focused on talking about the real issues that are affecting Canadians, mortgage rates going up, food bank usage going up, students having to choose between eating and paying their tuition, those are the types of things I hear when I come back to my riding and visit with my constituents.”

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