Supreme Court rules federal carbon tax constitutional

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada

Canada's national carbon tax will remain intact after the country's Supreme Court ruled in favour of its legality.

"We are pleased Canada's highest court has confirmed that the federal government has the legal authority to fight climate change through minimum national standards of price stringency to reduce GHG emissions", said Joshua Ginsberg, lawyer with Ecojustice's law clinic at the University of Ottawa.

"We're going to consider all options, listen to Albertans and see what they want to do". "So we are looking at what can we do to minimize the cost to our economy, to taxpayers, and to jobs".

When the United Conservatives were first sworn into power in spring 2019, their first order of business was to repeal Alberta's provincial carbon tax.

In Thursday's written decision, Chief Justice Richard Wagner said climate change is a real danger and evidence shows a price on pollution is a critical element in addressing it.

"The undisputed existence of a threat to the future of humanity can not be ignored", he wrote.

The onus at the courts was on the federal government to prove this was an issue of national concern, rather than leaving it to individual provinces.

"Find other differences to disagree with the government on and create a true cross-partisan consensus on how to attack climate change in Canada", Butts said.

"The ruling comes with a strong dissenting opinion - one that warns that this decision has far reaching implications for federal intrusion into areas of our provincial jurisdiction", the premier added. "He only quoted from people who agreed with the Alberta government". "It was not identified in the constitution", he told CTV News Edmonton.

Provinces were more open to adjusting their plans as a result of the decision however. While it might not be the final chapter in this battle, it does have the potential to - as former Harper government advisor Sean Speer put it on BNN Bloomberg - "lower the temperature" on climate policy in this country.

"This is part of his "fight back" strategy, but aside from winning the 2019 election, nearly every subsequent fight they've lost".

Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta challenged the federal system in court.

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"Where's the win from this "fight back" strategy?"

The Liberals and the Green Party have accused the Progressive Conservatives of spending some of the money on government infrastructure that would have been funded from other revenues if there were no carbon tax.

The governments of Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan had launched legal challenges after the price on pollution was passed in 2018.

As of December 2020, the Alberta government had spent more than $1 million on that effort, including to earn a 4-1 victory in the Court of Appeal of Alberta.

What did the Supreme Court say?

"Just because the court says that the federal government can punish people for filling up their gas tanks and driving to work and heating their homes, doesn't mean that the federal government should do that".

"This would be a good time for the federal government to reassess how they engage with the provinces, how they engage with cooperative federalism".

"Or does he just hope no one pays attention to that?"

Fighting the carbon tax was part of the Sask Party's platform in last fall's provincial election. That would be fun...

"The Liberals have staked their entire climate plan on the carbon tax".

In a virtual press conference on Thursday morning hosted by EnviroCollective, several Saskatchewan climate activist groups celebrated the Supreme Court of Canada's decision.

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