Ontario Decision Strike Two for Carbon Tax Court Challenges

For opponents still hoping to use the courts to undermine the Federal carbon tax, it was more bad news as the Ontario Court of Appeal joined its Saskatchewan colleagues in recognizing the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA). A 4-1 decision from the Ontario Court means strike two for the anti-carbon tax governments of Canada.

According to the CBC, Chief Justice George Strathy wrote in his majority decision that the climate change is an issue of “national concern” and that Parliament has a right to legislate on ways to mitigate it. “Parliament has determined that atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases causes climate changes that pose an existential threat to human civilization and the global ecosystem,” Strathy said.

“The need for a collective approach to a matter of national concern, and the risk of non-participation by one or more provinces, permits Canada to adopt minimum national standards to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

Justice Grant Huscrof was the one dissenting vote on the case. According to Global, he wrote in his dissent that he disagreed that climate change amounts to an “emergency case” and warned against allowing rhetoric to colour the constitutional analysis.

The Ontario decision comes down even harder in favour of the Federal government than the Saskatchewan ruling. That decision seemed to be made on the court’s belief that deciding if the carbon tax was fair was outside their jurisdiction.

“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.”

“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,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Twitter later that day.

Today, here in Ontario, it was Premier Doug Ford expressing disappointment.

“Ontario is disappointed that the Court did not accept Ontario’s position that the federal carbon tax is an unconstitutional tax,” said Ford in a media statement. “We know, as do the people of this province, that the federal government’s carbon tax is making life more expensive for Ontarians and is putting jobs and businesses at risk. We promised to use every tool at our disposal to challenge the carbon tax and we will continue to fight to keep this promise.”

Minister of the Environment Jeff Yurk added that Ontario is doing just fine to fight climate change without a carbon tax, thank you very much. It was a similar argument that the government used in court.

“Ontario will be appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ontario doesn’t need a carbon tax to address climate change,” said Yurek. “Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan considers our province’s specific priorities, challenges and opportunities, and commits to meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, without imposing a carbon tax on the people of our province.”

In the meantime, the Ontario government said that they will continue to back Saskatchewan’s appeal to the nation’s highest court, as well as any other province’s challenger to the law. “Ontario continues to stand united with our coalition of provinces,” it said.

While the Ontario government expresses disappointment, others are pleased with the court’s ruling. “I am relieved the courts have struck down his attempts to make Ontario a rogue actor in the fight against the climate crisis,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a statement. “The courts confirmed what legal experts have said all along – that the federal government has the constitutional authority to require minimum actions for reducing pollution.”

“For the past year, the Premier has wasted our money in a $30 million dollar misinformation campaign to sabotage climate solutions,” Schreiner added. “While global emissions reached an all-time high in 2018, the Premier distracted us with selfies and stickers at gas pumps, showing a complete disregard for the seriousness of the climate emergency.”

A spokeswoman for Environment and Climate Change Canada told Rueters that the ruling was “good news for Canada and the ability of the federal government to tackle carbon pollution which knows no borders.”

“The court rejected the Conservatives’ latest attempt to splinter our country and stop the federal government from protecting the environment on behalf of Canadians,” she added.

Photo Credit: One of the young protestors from a climate demonstration on May 3, 2019 by Eli Ridder

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