Federal carbon tax deemed constitutional by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal

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Provinces that oppose the federal carbon tax suffered a first setback. The majority of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled that Ottawa’s rating system is constitutional.

Premier Scott Moe promised to appeal, while Federal Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna shouted victory.

Saskatchewan turned to the province’s Court of Appeal to determine whether Ottawa’s carbon tax is constitutional and respects federal and provincial jurisdiction.

“Today’s decision is a win for Canadians and future generations. It can not be free to pollute in Canada, “said Minister McKenna in Ottawa, before attacking Conservative premiers who oppose her carbon tax and federal leader Andrew Scheer. “It’s time for conservative politicians to stop their partisan games and take part in serious and effective climate action. “

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe almost immediately announced on Twitter that he would try to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. “Although I am disappointed with today’s decision, our struggle will continue on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan – who are opposed to Trudeau’s carbon tax, which is inefficient and detrimental to employment. “

Skill question

Ottawa had argued at hearings in February that its carbon pricing was in the national interest. The federal government argued that climate change is a national concern and therefore has the power to legislate a carbon tax under the Constitution that gives it the right “to make laws for peace, order and good government of Canada.

Saskatchewan argued that its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is sufficient. The province argued that the carbon tax is “constitutionally illegitimate” because it applies only to certain provinces and that the federal government “does not have the authority to question provincial decisions on environmental issues”. provincial jurisdiction “.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled Friday, three to two, that Parliament has the authority to “establish minimum national standards for stringent GHG emissions pricing”. The majority decision recognizes that the fight against GHGs is shared competence. “It does not matter, the fundamental principle remains the same. The scope of Parliament’s constitutional authority does not depend on whether or how the province exercised its own exclusive jurisdiction. “

The two minority judges, on the other hand, believe that the carbon price imposed on consumption is nothing more than an unconstitutional tax, but that the pricing of fuel production imposed on industries is indeed a federal constitutional matter. . “We believe it is constitutionally outrageous that Parliament exercise its taxation power to control constitutional measures taken by a province to address GHG emissions. “

Political struggle

Since April 1, the carbon tax has been imposed on the four provinces that did not have a carbon pricing plan that Ottawa considers to be inadequate: Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick. Alberta’s new prime minister, Jason Kenney, has promised to revoke the carbon tax of his predecessor, Rachel Notley, and to challenge the tax imposed on him by the federal government. Doug Ford’s Ontario government and Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party – who had not yet been elected to Alberta – stepped in to support Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan government.

Ontario turned to its own Court of Appeal, where the hearings were held two weeks ago.

The decision of the Saskatchewan court, however, has no bearing on the pending Ontario case. “Provincial courts are not bound by decisions made in other provinces,” says David Robitaille, a professor of constitutional law and environmental law at the University of Ottawa. “There is no guarantee, because the Ontario Court of Appeal will make its decision on what has been pleaded before it. And the arguments of the federal government were not identical to those pleaded in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. “

In his opinion, and that of several experts, the case will definitely lead to the Supreme Court because it is she who decides in last resort on this kind of issues.

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