Ontario's top court says federal government's carbon charge is constitutional

01 Juillet, 2019, 08:47 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Ontario's top court says federal government's carbon charge is constitutional

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision on Friday. The country's highest court has already agreed to hear an appeal of a separate reference case from Saskatchewan on December 5.

The constitutionality of the pricing system will ultimately be determined by the Supreme Court of Canada.

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

The Ontario Court of Appeal decision is a major victory for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is heading into a fall election campaign in which climate change will likely be a major issue. McKenna said earlier this month the federal carbon price would come into force in Alberta starting January 1, 2020. During four days of submissions in April, Ontario insisted the act would undermine co-operative federalism.

The highest court in the province of Ontario has ruled that the federal government does have the power to impose a carbon tax as part of its effort to combat climate change.

Speaking on behalf of the court on Friday, Chief Justice George 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".

Like other provinces, the government plans to have the standards in place in the summer of 2019 and will work closely with the federal government to ensure Ontario industry is not double regulated. They simply said Ontario had one of the best records, emissions 22% below 2005 levels, without a carbon tax and that the Paris targets could be met without a tax.

Ottawa is increasing the carbon tax on new natural-gas plants as part of the final regulations for its carbon-pricing system for big industrial greenhouse-gas emitters.

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"They are regulatory in nature and connected to the purposes of the act", Strathy wrote.

The federal government maintains the levy in Ontario - now four cents a litre on gasoline - is a regulatory charge created to change behaviour in favour of lower greenhouse gas emissions. Ontario's Progressive Conservative government calls the charge an illegal tax, arguing the federal government overstepped its authority in imposing the charge.

Saskatchewan province - with the backing of New Brunswick - went to court last month to try to block the federal levy but lost. He said the tax leaves ample scope for provincial legislation. The pricing mechanisms also "incentivize behavioural modifications", he said.

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.

The province said it will appeal today's decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.

In a joint statement, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek said the province was "disappointed" with the ruling and would appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

At the time, Moe likened the ruling to losing the first game of a playoff series.

In a statement issued last week, Alberta Premier Jason Kenny, said his government is now preparing its own challenge to the carbon tax.

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