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'Best-before date' looms over Liberals if Canadians don't get a break, says MP Ken McDonald

Ken McDonald, Liberal MP for Conception Bay South in Newfoundland and Labrador, pitched a rural carbon tax carve out to the prime minister at the national Liberal caucus meeting in London, Ont. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC - image credit)
Ken McDonald, Liberal MP for Conception Bay South in Newfoundland and Labrador, pitched a rural carbon tax carve out to the prime minister at the national Liberal caucus meeting in London, Ont. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC - image credit)
Ken McDonald, Liberal MP for Conception Bay South in Newfoundland and Labrador, pitched a rural carbon tax carve out to the prime minister at the national Liberal caucus meeting in London, Ont.
Ken McDonald, Liberal MP for Conception Bay South in Newfoundland and Labrador, pitched a rural carbon tax carve out to the prime minister at the national Liberal caucus meeting in London, Ont.

Ken McDonald, Liberal MP for Avalon, pitched a rural carbon tax carve out to the prime minister at the national Liberal caucus meeting in London, Ont. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

At least one Liberal MP representing Newfoundland and Labrador believes the clock may be ticking on his party's time in power.

Parliament is back in session after a summer of increased wildfires, inflation, spikes in the cost of living, and housing shortages across the country.

Newfoundland and Labrador hasn't been immune to many of these problems. The rising cost of rent and lack of available housing is putting pressure on the province and its municipalities to find a quick solution.

There's also been a rise in the popularity of opposition Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, according to numerous opinion polls that point to a widening lead over Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals.

Although Avalon MP Ken McDonald says his party needs to get a handle on ahead of the next election or possibly risk losing government.

"I think we have to come up with some policies and some programs that help to ease the pain of what people are facing today," McDonald told CBC News.

"That's something that happens regularly. And I don't know if the best-before date is gone, yet, on the Liberal Party. But it's getting there if Canadians are not seeing a break real soon."

In October of last year, McDonald was the only Liberal to stand in support of a Conservative motion to exempt home heating fuel from the federal carbon tax.

About 48,000 homes in Newfoundland and Labrador use oil as their primary source of heating, and with the rising cost over the last few years some residents' wallets have been squeezed dry — the carbon tax makes the fuel that much more expensive by 17 cents more per litre.

That's on top of the federal government's Clean Fuels Strategy, which adds 14 cents to a litre of gas. The provincial Liberals dropped its own tax on gas on July 1 when the federal strategy came into play.

Tories are hitting pocketbook issues, MP says

Poilievre's campaign has been centred around one slogan: "Axe the tax." His focus during visits to Newfoundland and Labrador over the last 18 months has been on lowering the cost of home heating oils.

McDonald believes that's why the opposition leader may be out in front.

Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, was in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday meeting residents and supporters on home turf.
Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, was in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday meeting residents and supporters on home turf.

Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, has been touring Newfoundland and Labrador with promises to cut the tax on home heating fuels. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

"That, I think, hits home to everybody because everybody realizes that whether it be through the Clean Fuels Strategy or the rise in the cost of home heating oil, you name it, it's partially because of some taxes that have been put on to those particular items," he said.

"When you hurt people in the pocketbook, they remember it. When you promise to not hurt them in the pocketbook, or to eliminate a tax that they're now paying, that bodes well with the every day Canadian when it comes to their pocketbook issues."

McDonald said he is not nervous and the mood within his party is "pretty good" heading into the fall session, and following a national Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ont.

McDonald said he and others put their concerns on the table.

"What some of us, myself included, have mentioned … is either give a break on the home heating fuel tax and the Clean Fuel Strategy for a certain length of time. I think people would look at that as being favourable," he said.

"Will it ever come back again? I don't know. Will the government actually do something in that regard? We keep talking about it. We talk about it to ministers, we talk about it at caucuses. Some of us are really hoping that we do something to ease the burden, especially on people that live in rural communities."

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