OTTAWA - The New Democrats are facing political headwinds when it comes to carbon pricing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Friday, although he doesn't get why they seem to be having second thoughts.

The NDP has long championed the idea of putting a price on pollution, even campaigning on it in the 2019 election.

But this week, the party shifted its tone, saying carbon pricing is not the “be-all, end-all” and encouraging premiers to come up with new ideas to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

New Democrat MPs also backed a non-binding Conservative motion in the House of Commons demanding that Trudeau sit down with provincial and territorial leaders within five weeks to discuss the policy.

“It's not a handful of conservative politicians and premiers that are going to turn me away from continuing the fight against climate change,” Trudeau said Friday during a news conference in Vaughan, Ont., outside Toronto.

“So I don't entirely understand the position of the NDP and pulling back from affordability measures and from the fight against climate change.”

The Conservatives insist that the carbon price is making life less affordable for Canadians, while the Liberals say rebates from the price on pollution mean most Canadians end up with more money at the end of the day.

That has left New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh between a rock and a hard place, Trudeau suggested Friday.

“I feel for the NDP and for Jagmeet. This is a hard moment. There are political headwinds. There's a lot of political pressure,” he said.

“I'm certainly feeling it, everyone should be feeling it, by folks out there who are worried about affordability, who are worried about climate change.”

But that shouldn't stop the NDP from sticking to its guns on a long-held policy position, Trudeau said.

“I understand the political pressures on the NDP leadership right now and the challenges of holding an unpopular position, but doing the right thing should be something progressive voters in this country can count on.”

The NDP has not changed their policy, Singh said, but he wouldn't say if he supports the federal carbon price.

“New Democrats are looking at ways to make life more affordable for people and fight the climate crisis with the urgency required,” Singh said in a statement that didn't directly address Trudeau's comments.

He also rebuked the Conservatives - accusing the party of ignoring climate change - as well as the Liberals, saying they are using the climate debate to divide the country.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives argue that Singh is trying to mislead Canadians on his record of supporting the policy.

“But we won't let him forget, and we won't let him try to fool Canadians,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said in a post on X.

The Tories have introduced more than 20 motions in the House under Poilievre to scrap the federal carbon price. The NDP voted against all but two of them.

But now, with nearly a quarter of the NDP's federal caucus having either quit or declared they won't run again, Conservatives have taken to blaming Singh, calling him “a weak leader who is desperate to run from his own record.”

The NDP has made policy gains as part of its political pact with Trudeau's minority Liberals, most notably getting traction on national pharmacare and dental-care programs.

But so far, there's little polling evidence to suggest that those victories will translate into support at the ballot box.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, are eyeing NDP seats in British Columbia and northern Ontario, where their relentless campaigning on cost-of-living issues and the Liberal price on pollution are resonating.

They were no less determined Friday to make life difficult for the governing party, however, triggering a flurry of votes in order to stall progress on a Liberal bill aimed at creating sustainable jobs.

More than once during his news conference, Trudeau had to pause and stare into his cellphone to cast a virtual vote in the House, flanked all the while by his finance and housing ministers as they did the same thing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.