Ontario’s court challenge against federal carbon law gets underway

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Ontario’s court challenge against federal carbon law gets underway

by - 2 min read

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A lawyer for the Ontario government has begun laying out why a federal law that puts a price on carbon is unconstitutional.

The province calls the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act an illegal tax grab. The case is being heard before a five-judge panel of Ontario’s Court of Appeal.

In a rare move, the court has allowed cameras into the courtroom so the proceedings can be streamed live.

The lawyer says Ottawa is putting a burden on everyday people who have to drive to work or heat their homes.

Ottawa began levying a carbon tax on greenhouse gas-emitting fuels on April 1 in four provinces — Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick — that refused to establish their own carbon pricing plan.  

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government is arguing that the federal Liberal government’s carbon tax is unconstitutional. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

After it was elected last June, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative party swiftly scrapped the previous provincial Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program. The move led to Ottawa imposing a carbon tax on the province.

Ontario, with the help of Saskatchewan, launched a legal challenge last fall against the tax applied to gasoline, light fuel oil, natural gas and propane. The province has also joined Saskatchewan’s case as an intervener. 

Ottawa intruding on provincial jurisdiction, lawyer says

The lawyer says Ontario is fighting climate change on its own terms.

Among other things, the province argues Ottawa is intruding on provincial jurisdiction.

Ottawa insists its law is an appropriate response to an issue of national concern — climate change. It says the legislation aims to “fill in the gaps” where provincial measures aren’t up to snuff.

The Ontario government of Ford has joined the case of Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s government as an intervener, while also filing Ontario’s own legal challenge. (CBC)

The federal government will make its arguments in favour of its measure on Tuesday, day two of the four-day hearing, while a series of interveners, 15 in all, will have their say on Wednesday.

Those interveners include the provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia, Alberta Conservatives, Indigenous organizations who say they are acutely vulnerable to global warming, as well as business and environmental groups.

Among them are the Canadian Taxpayers Federation on the side of Ontario, and the Assembly of First Nations on the side of Canada.

Earlier this month, Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips reiterated his issues with the carbon tax, saying he believes the province must address climate change but not through a levy. He has touted Ontario’s own plan, which the Ford government unveiled last November. 

Saskatchewan issued its own court challenge against the carbon tax in February. During the proceedings, Canada argued its framework is a regulatory charge, not a tax, and so it has jurisdiction because greenhouse gas emissions are a matter of “national concern.”

This story originally appeared on CBC

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