“And we will continue to defend taxpayers from the carbon tax cash grab.” – Kenney
On Friday, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled the federal government has the power to set a minimum national price on greenhouse gas emissions.
Joshua Ginsberg, a lawyer with Ecojustice said the historic carbon tax ruling makes it clear that “the federal government has the power to bring Canada together to combat climate change.”
Ecojustice, a Canadian environmental law group that represents community groups, non-profits, Indigenous communities, and individual Canadians, says the decision also means that Parliament will be able to enact “time-limited measures to respond to climate change in the future.”
In the reference case, Ecojustice represented the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) and the David Suzuki Foundation, which asked the court to weigh in on whether the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was constitutional.
Saskatchewan government lawyers argued the federal carbon tax is unfair and constitutional.
“We are disappointed with the decision from the court today. We will discuss the next legal steps with our allies in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney tweeted.
“And we will continue to defend taxpayers from the carbon tax cash grab.”
In a statement, Kenney said his government’s initial reaction is that the split decision is “far from the broad victory the federal government sought” and noted all five justices rejected Ottawa’s “claim for a sweeping power to regulate GHG emissions in the provinces.”
Ecojustice says it was the only group to advance an argument that the law could also be supported under Parliament’s power to deal with a national emergency.
“Recent reports on Canada’s warming and extreme weather show we must urgently use all the tools in our tool box to shrink harmful carbon pollution and set Canada on the right path forward,” said Ian Bruce, science and policy director at the David Suzuki Foundation.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal found the law was not sufficiently temporary to qualify as emergency legislation, but it did agree that “climate change is doubtless an emergency in the sense that it presents a genuine threat to Canada.”
In a press release, Ecojustice said this is a “judicial first”.
The decision was not unanimous with three appeal judges ruled in favour of the federal government while two others, Justices Ralph Ottenbreit and Neil Caldwell, ruled the federal government’s law was wholly unconstitutional.
Ottenbreit and Caldwell argued Part 1 of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is invalid and an unconstitutional delegation of Parliament’s law-making power. The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act imposes a charge on GHG producing fuels and waste.
Suzuki Foundation’s Ian Bruce said “Today’s decision paves the way for a strong, fair and unified approach to tackling climate change across the country. ”
Saskatchewan has introduced its own carbon plan called Prairie Resilience. The plan did not place a price on carbon while the federal government’s carbon price starts at a minimum of $20 per tonne and is set to rise $10 each year until 2022.
The court’s decision was not expected for at least three months, and one expert told CBC News that the quick ruling shows the courts prioritized the case.
Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna welcomed the ruling.
“It is an issue of national concern. Pollution does not know any borders,” she told reporters.
Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe said his government will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Ultimately, the fate of the Trudeau carbon tax will be decided in the federal election this fall,” he said.