Court rules against Saskatchewan in carbon tax case

Court was split 3-2

May 3, 2019 12:09 pm

In a split 302 decision, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the federal government in its decision on the carbon tax challenge, which was just released.

The 155-page report concludes “The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is not unconstitutional either in whole or in part”.

The court reserved its decision Feb. 14 after hearing two days of legal arguments on the constitutionality of Ottawa’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. The carbon tax on fuel took effect on April 1.

During the hearing, 16 groups — governments, environmental organizations and even Alberta’s then-Opposition — intervened in the case. More than three dozen lawyers faced a five-judge panel, pushing the public into an overflow room.

The reference case is essentially a request for the province’s top court to give a legal opinion on whether the carbon backstop is constitutional.

During the arguments, Ottawa attempted to assert its authority over matters of national concern. Canada has long said it’s committed to meeting emission targets under the Paris Accord. It argues a carbon tax — or what it prefers to call carbon pricing — is the most effective way to do it.

But Saskatchewan says the tax will harm its resource-based economy. The province’s lawyers argued the court battle is not a debate about climate change, or even the carbon tax. But rather, the province’s arguments largely revolve around the federal government’s alleged intrusion into areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Regardless of the decision by the province’s highest court, it likely won’t be the last word. Ontario is bringing a similar case, and Saskatchewan’s attorney general has said there’s “no doubt” the matter will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.