Federal carbon tax is constitutional, Ontario's top court rules

29 Juin, 2019, 06:48 | Auteur: Therese Cote

Ontario's top court is set to release a decision Friday on whether the federal government can impose a carbon tax on provinces it believes aren't doing enough to fight climate change.

"Parliament has determined that atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases causes climate changes that pose an existential threat to human civilization and the global ecosystem", Strathy said.

"The need for a collective approach to a matter of national concern, and the risk of non-participation by one or more provinces, permits Canada to adopt minimum national standards to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions", reads the ruling, penned by Chief Justice George R. Strathy.

The Doug Ford government challenged the constitutionality of the carbon-pricing law before a five-judge panel in April.

"And it won't be until that point that we have a clear, authoritative decision from the Supreme Court saying whether or not greenhouse gas legislation passed by the federal government is valid or not", Olszynski said.

Provincial lawyers told the Court of Appeal the federal government would end up with the power to regulate nearly every facet of life - such as when you can drive, where you can live, or whether you can have a wood-burning fireplace.

For their part, federal lawyers argued the province was fearmongering.

Last month in a split decision, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal sided with Ottawa in a similar challenge.

Ford has previously said that if carbon tax opponents lose in the courts, they will win at the ballot box in October.

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Cutting greenhouse emissions can not be dealt with "piecemeal" and must be addressed as a single matter to ensure its efficacy, the court said.

No single province or group of provinces can establish minimum national standards to reduce emissions, the court said. Carbon pricing is only one way to deal with greenhouse gases, he said. They also argued the province has its own approach to the climate-change issue.

The federal act now only applies in four Conservative provinces - Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan - which Ottawa says don't meet national standards.

Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to scrap the carbon tax if his party forms the government after the general election.

"It is unfortunate that Conservative politicians. continue to waste taxpayers' dollars fighting climate action in court rather than taking real action to fight climate change", McKenna said in a statement. "There are many ways to address climate change and the provinces have ample authority to pursue them". Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan considers our province's specific priorities, challenges and opportunities, and commits to meeting Canada's greenhouse gas emissions target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, without imposing a carbon tax on the people of our province.

The issue is expected to be ultimately decided before the country's top court.

A majority of justices on the Saskatchewan court found that requiring a national price on carbon pollution fell within federal jurisdiction under the national concern branch of the POGG power.

Court challenges of the act are also ongoing in Manitoba and New Brunswick, while new Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said his government will also launch a legal challenge.

The federal act now only applies in four Conservative provinces - Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan - which Ottawa says don't meet national standards.

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