Saskatchewan Court Calls Carbon Tax Constitutional, What’s Next?

It’s strike one for opponents of the so-called carbon tax as a Saskatchewan appeals court today ruled that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) is constitutional. Proponents are cheering, but opponents are promising to take this legal fight all the way to “game seven.”

According to the Regina Leader-Post, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal issued a 155-page decision that the GGPPA is “not unconstitutional either in whole or in part,” in a split 3-2 decision.

“The sole issue before the Court is whether Parliament has the constitutional authority to enact the Act,” Chief Justice Robert Richard wrote in his majority decision. “The issue is not whether GHG (greenhouse gas) pricing should or should not be adopted or whether the Act is effective or fair. Those are questions to be answered by Parliament and by provincial legislatures, not by courts.”

Meanwhile the two dissenting justices, in their opinion, said that the act was put into effect in a “constitutionally repugnant” manner, and that the GGPPA prevents provinces from being able to develop their own responses to combating emissions that are “at the level that is most suited to achieving the nuanced response that a diverse country requires.”

With at least two out of the five justices in his corner, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is looking at the long game calling this “game one” of a seven game series.

“Though I am disappointed by today’s ruling, our fight will continue on behalf of Saskatchewan people — who oppose the ineffective, job-killing Trudeau carbon tax,” Moe said on Twitter. “It was a 3-2 split decision and we look to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Of course, there’s more than one court battle afoot. In Ontario last month, the government went to court to make its own case that the GGPPA is unconstitutional.

“The federal government’s carbon tax is forcing Ontarians to pay more to heat their homes, drive to work and buy groceries. It’s simply not fair to hardworking individuals, families and small businesses,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “That’s why today, lawyers from my ministry are in court to argue that the federal government has enacted an unconstitutional, disguised tax. We are keeping our promise to fight for Ontarians.”

Despite the decision in Saskatchewan, Ontario is promising to keep up the fight.

“We promised to fight the federal government’s job-killing carbon tax with every tool at our disposal, which includes supporting our friends in Saskatchewan in court,” said Premier Doug Ford in a statement. “I’m disappointed with the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s decision, but that will not stop us from continuing to fight the federal carbon tax in Ontario.”

At least one member of the Ontario Legislature said that he’s pleased with today’s outcome, and hopes that the Saskatchewan decision might be a lesson for the government in this province.

“Today’s decision by the Saskatchewan court is a blow to the Premier’s campaign to sabotage climate solutions and a victory for youth rallying across Canada today for the Global Climate Strike,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement.

“The result does not bode well for the Premier’s own case against pollution pricing, which is supported by Nobel Prize winning economists as the best way to reduce emissions,” he added. “Instead of putting climate change on trial, Ford and his anti-climate cohort should be upholding their responsibility to our children and future generations.”

In the meantime, Manitoba recently filed a court case of its own in Federal Court, while Alberta is pondering potential participation in Saskatchewan’s Supreme Court appeal. Cancelling the carbon tax imposed by the NDP government in Alberta was one of the main campaign promises of new Alberta Progressive Conservative government led by Premier Jason Kenney.

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