The Saskatchewan premier vowed to challenge the Trudeau government's carbon tax in Canada's top court Friday, after a lower court ruled it is constitutional.
In a 3-2 decision, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal said the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act “falls within the legislative authority of Parliament. It is not unconstitutional in whole or in part."
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna called the decision "a win for Canadians and for future generations."
However, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe immediately vowed to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada. Newly-elected Alberta Premier Jason Kenney vowed to join him and Ontario Premier Doug Ford also voiced support for keeping up the legal challenge to the Trudeau government.
"Though I am disappointed with today's ruling, our fight will continue on behalf of Saskatchewan people – who oppose the ineffective, job-killing Trudeau carbon tax," Moe said on Twitter.
Though I am disappointed with today's ruling, our fight will continue on behalf of Saskatchewan people – who oppose the ineffective, job-killing Trudeau carbon tax. It was a 3-2 split decision and we look to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. pic.twitter.com/dbkcNi1Mc9— Scott Moe (@PremierScottMoe) May 3, 2019
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McKenna said the decision confirms that putting a price on pollution and returning the revenues to Canadians through the climate action incentive rebate is not only constitutional, but is “an effective and essential part of any serious response to the global challenge of climate change.”
We are disappointed with the decision from the court today.— Jason Kenney 🇺🇦🇨🇦 (@jkenney) May 3, 2019
We will discuss the next legal steps with our allies in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick.
And we will continue to defend taxpayers from the carbon tax cash grab. https://t.co/3GcyZ1KEq5
McKenna also pointed to the court’s recognition that climate change is manmade.
In a judicial first, the court said “climate change is doubtless an emergency in the sense that it presents a genuine threat to Canada.”
“The factual record presented to the Court confirms that climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions is one of the great existential issues of our time,” Chief Justice Robert Richards wrote in the 155-page decision.
“The pressing importance of limiting such emissions is accepted by all of the participants in these proceedings.”
McKenna urged conservative leaders to join in climate action
The court said the impacts on Canadians include thawing permafrost, increases in extreme weather and extreme weather events such as forest fires, degradation of soil and water resources, increased frequency and severity of heat waves, and expansion of the ranges of vector-borne diseases. Among submissions the court drew on was the Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“Predictions show that Canada’s temperature, particularly in the Arctic, will warm at a faster rate than that of the world as a whole,” the court said.
McKenna said people need look no further than a short drive from Parliament Hill to see the impact. Thousands of residents of Ottawa and across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec are fighting to save their homes from the second massive flooding in three years. She called on conservative leaders across the country to join forces with the federal government to work on this challenge.
“It is time for conservative politicians to stop the partisan games and join in on serious and effective climate action,” McKenna said. “My question to conservative politicians, from Doug Ford to Scott Moe to Jason Kenney to Andrew Scheer: ‘Will you stop blocking climate action and join us in fighting climate change.’”
Today's decision is a win for Canadians and for future generations. It cannot be free to pollute in Canada. It confirms that putting a price on carbon pollution and returning the revenues to Canadians is not only constitutional, it is effective and essential. pic.twitter.com/7eSmuk1XYJ— Catherine McKenna (@cathmckenna) May 3, 2019
Moe’s answer was a resounding no. Focussing on the minority of two judges who deemed the tax unconstitutional, he said, “There are strong grounds for an appeal. I remain hopeful for a different outcome.”
Kenney tweeted disappointment in the decision and said "we will continue to defend taxpayers from the carbon tax cash grab."
In a statement, Kenney insisted this was “far from the broad victory the federal government sought.”
“We disagree with the narrow ruling by the majority that the federal government has the power to ensure a provincial minimum price on carbon, and will be joining Saskatchewan in their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Saskatchewan premier says federal election will decide carbon tax fate
Ford echoed the western conservative premiers' disappointment, saying Ontario will not stop fighting the federal carbon tax. "We promised to fight the federal government's job-killing carbon tax with every tool at our disposal, which includes supporting our friends in Saskatchewan in court."
However, Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said this is a blow to Ford’s efforts.
“The result does not bode well for the Premier’s own case against pollution pricing, which is supported by Nobel Prize winning economists as the best way to reduce emissions,” he said.
“The floods ravaging parts of Canada show Ford is on the wrong side of history and should stop emptying the public purse to sabotage climate solutions.”
The Act came into force on June 21, 2018. The federal carbon price in provinces that do not have one of their own starts at a minimum of $20 a tonne and is to rise $10 each year until 2022.
The Saskatchewan government was one of the first to publicly challenge the federal plans to price carbon and offer income tax rebates to citizens in provinces that have failed to meet a national standard.
Court challenges are now also underway in Ontario, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Kenney, elected in April, has previously said he would scrap Alberta’s existing carbon tax and launch his own court challenge of the federal plan.
The conservative-leaning premiers have declined to impose a price on carbon pollution, previously agreed to by federal, provincial and territorial governments as part of a national climate change strategy adopted in December 2016.
“Saskatchewan plans to intervene in each of these cases,” Moe said. “Ultimately the fate of the Trudeau carbon tax will be decided in the federal election this fall.”
Indicating that climate change will be a ballot question in the fall election, Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement on the court ruling saying he would "scrap Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax."
“I agree with Justices Neal Caldwell and Ralph Ottenbreit that it is ‘repugnant for Parliament to exercise its power’ in this way," he said, referring to the minority decision.
“Saskatchewanians, along with Canadians from coast to coast, have clearly said no to Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax. The Governments of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick are all fighting the Liberals’ tax grab in court, and I look forward to having Alberta Premier Jason Kenney join that fight soon.
The existence of climate change was not at issue in the case. Nor was whether greenhouse gas pricing should be adopted or whether the Act is effective or fair. The court said those are questions for Parliament and provincial legislatures to answer.
The sole issue in this case was whether Parliament has the constitutional authority to enact the Act, which relates to the division of federal and provincial powers set out in the Constitution.
Saskatchewan argued the carbon tax is unconstitutional because it encroaches on provincial jurisdiction and is not applied evenly across the country.
However, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruling said, "There is no recognized constitutional requirement that laws enacted by Parliament must apply uniformly from coast to coast to coast.
"The environment is not a legislative subject matter that has been assigned to either Parliament or the provincial legislatures under the Constitution Act.”
Given that neither level of government has exclusive authority over the environment, it said,
“Parliament can legislate in relation to issues such as GHGs so long as it stays within the four corners of its prescribed subject matters and the provinces can do the same so long as they stay within their prescribed areas of authority.”
Moe said the carbon tax has been the ballot question in provincial elections in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick in the past year — and “in every case, the party supporting the Trudeau carbon tax has lost.”
'Provinces are no subsidiaries of the federal government': Moe
Rather than adopt the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change that came out of a first minister’s meeting in December 2016, Saskatchewan released its own climate change strategy in December 2017.
The Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy proposed to address climate change without a broad-based carbon tax.
The plan would impose sector-specific output-based performance standards on facilities emitting more than 25,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
“Provinces are no subsidiaries of the federal government,” Moe said. “Saskatchewan has the authority to implement our Prairie Resilience Plan to fight climate change, to reduce emissions and to do it without a carbon tax.
“Unfortunately this court did not agree, but as I said, today’s ruling is just one step in the battle. The Trudeau carbon tax is bad economic policy, it’s bad environmental policy and our fight against it will continue.”
Trudeau's Liberals have said that making polluters pay is a key plank of the government's strategy to fight climate change and move toward Canada's international targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The court agreed.
“Climate change is a global problem and, accordingly, it calls for a global response. Such a response can only be effectively developed internationally by way of state-to-state negotiation and agreement,” Richards wrote.
In making these international commitments, Canada is expected to make national commitments with respect to greenhouse gas reductions and mitigation targets.
“Those commitments are self-evidently difficult for Canada, as a country, to meet if not all provincial jurisdictions are prepared to implement GHG emissions pricing regimes – regimes that, on the basis of the record before the Court, are an essential aspect of successful GHG mitigation plans.”
This recognition by the court that there has to be a role for the federal government in addressing this is significant, said Nathalie Chalifour, associate professor of law at the University of Ottawa and co-director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability.
Both the Saskatchewan and Ontario governments have argued they don’t need to have the federal government involved in climate change efforts — that the provinces can deal with this on their own.
“It was accepted by the court that no single province can address this issue at a national scale,” Chalifour said in an interview. “That in and of itself speaks to the need to recognize federal jurisdiction.”
Although the province has the right to appeal, Chalifour said that she wishes the provinces opposed to the federal carbon pricing plan would instead focus more on addressing the issue of climate change.
“While we are focusing on the minutiae of constitutional law, ultimately climate change is continuing to become a bigger problem for this country.”
And the reality is, even if the province wins on appeal and the act is deemed unconstitutional, she said the federal government would simply have to tweak the law to have it fit within its jurisdictional powers. The price on carbon is not designed as a tax now — it’s a behaviour changing mechanism — but it could be.
Ultimately, if there is political will to introduce a price, there is a way, so all the opposition amounts to hand-wringing, rhetoric and political posturing.
“It’s a real pity that this has become a partisan issue,” she said.
“The people who will pay are younger generations, Indigenous communities, people who have lower incomes — those who don’t have the resources to deal with floods and wildfires and heat waves that are going to become more frequent and more intense.”
McKenna made clear the federal government won’t be deterred by conservative detractors.
“Cities and towns are on the front lines of climate change. They can't pretend it's not happening, they can't pretend that we can do less as opposed to more,” McKenna said.
“Our scientists have shown that Canada's warming at twice the global average, three times or more in our north, that we are going to see the impacts and we are seeing the impacts of climate change.”
Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET on May 3, 2019, with reaction and earlier at 6:10 with a Catherine McKenna tweet, at 6:02 p.m. ET with comments from the federal Conservative leader, at 5:40 p.m ET with reaction and background and at 3:55pm and 4:06 p.m. and ET with reactions from the federal environment minister and the premiers of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario. It was updated again at 10:11 PT with additional comments from Chalifour.
I am not against the tax, but
I am not against the tax, but when McKenna says "the decision confirms that putting a price on pollution and returning the revenues to Canadians through the climate action incentive rebate is not only constitutional, but is “an effective and essential part of any serious response to the global challenge of climate change.”" she is wrong. It dues only one of those things: it is constitutional. The court makes no funding that the policy is a good one or a bad one just that it is constitutional. Why do politicians have to make stuff up.
One thing I do not understand
One thing I do not understand is why the court even commented on whether or not climate change was real or not and it's effects on Canada. I think that self indulgence was completely unnecessary to the question at hand and to me quite surprising and inappropriate. Of this goes to the Supreme Court, even if they support the constitutionality, I expect there will be a rebuke for this unnecessary and inappropriate commentary.
You may not understand it,
You may not understand it, but it is of the essence, and not 'self indulgent' at all. It is precisely the international nature of climate change........and the fact that emissions by their very nature cross borders.....that makes federal action necessary and appropriate.
What I don't understand, is how a country that knuckled under easily to a conservative driven national sales tax, can be so muddled and susceptible to partisan lying, when it comes to a price on carbon. In fact, most people receive money back from this tax...which wasn't the case for most of us when the GST was created....and the conservative politicians who pretend that isn't the case are revealing their simple minds at best, their proclivity to partisan lying at worst.
It astounds me, that in the face of the floods in eastern Canada, under the threat of more 'super fires' in our north this summer, Canadians can be so penny pinching and ecosphere destructive in their thinking.
Climate change is the existential threat of our time. And you don't understand why the Supreme Court of Saskatchewan included it in their deliberations??? In the face of what the science tells us, the concept of polluter pay should be as urgent as the neoliberal idea of the 80's that the consumer should pony up.
To my mind, only hidebound denialism can continue to pretend that isn't the case. Your desire to leave climate change out of the question of federal jurisdiction only makes sense if you believe such change is irrelevant....that is precisely the emergency the carbon tax was designed to confront.
They concluded that the
They concluded that the government had the power to do the carbon tax because it was a case of providing "Peace, Order and Good Government". If climate change were a fairy tale, policies to stop it wouldn't be "Peace, Order and Good Government", so I expect it's important to determine that the issue prompting the policy does in fact exist. It seems to have been made easier by the fact that the side opposing the tax did not in fact deny that climate change was real--so the underlying facts were not in dispute. Which is pretty much the case in the world at large as well.
So the Kenney/Moe/Ford train
So the Kenney/Moe/Ford train know better than the Nobel scientists . . .
They know better than almost
They know better than almost everyone, and we should be under no illusions as to the world view they are defending. Centuries of exploiting the natural world, and the world's most vulnerable people intensified with neoliberal globalism.....but now........with the evidence of ecocide mounting, and the reality of increased poverty and social destrluction on the ground becoming hard to avoid or deny, all they can think to do is double down.
Which means, declaring war...by one means or another. Kenny has personally promised whatever he sees as a threat to Alberta's economy will be under attack. Apparantly, using our increasingly limited tax base to go to war against environmentalists, other provinces, left leaning independent media, the federal government....etc., etc., will prove more effective than any damn carbon tax.
Especially if your aim is to continue to rape and pillage, rip and ship, build climate destroying infrastructure, nip clean tech in the bud, and roll education back to the 1050s...so that the guys who know better than any egghead scientists...can continue to keep the wheels of industry rolling.
Remember: We have to be 'Open for Business' and 'Closed to New Fangled ideas like solar, electric cars, or carbon taxes.
Does I Heart Oil resonate outside of Alberta???
So, Premier Scoot Moe is
So, Premier Scoot Moe is against carbon pricing; then, what is he doing to address Saskatchewan's high emissions level?
According to the National Energy Board of Canada, Saskatchewan's GHG emissions have increased 71% between 1990 and 2016.
In 2016, Saskatchewan's emissions per capita were the highest in Canada at 66.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a shocking 244% above the national average of 19.4 tonnes per capita.
Premier Scoot Moe, what are your solutions to reduce Saskatchewan's GHG emissions? Will you ask for help from your friends in Alberta and Ontario?
A 3-2 split is not exactly a
A 3-2 split is not exactly a landslide victory for Ms. McKenna. We shall see what Monday October 21, 2019 brings.
The hidden Brad Tax to fund
The hidden Brad Tax to fund Carbon Capture in Saskatchewan is at 1.5 Billion, not a market solution, put a price on carbon and let the market decide, not politicians. The record of Politicians picking winners is very bad indeed.