Carbon Tax in Court: Ontario Moves Forward, Sask. Hits Snag, and PEI Bails

It’s not over till it’s over. That seems to be the message coming from the various court challengers to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA) as Ontario heads to the Supreme Court, Saskatchewan loses a bid to delay, and Prince Edward Island is out of the court battle (for now?).

On Wednesday, the Government of Ontario announced that they were proceeding with a Supreme Court of Canada appeal to the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal back in June.

“In June, we were disappointed to learn that in a split decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal did not accept our position that the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional,” said Minister of the Environment Jeff Yurek in a media statement. “Despite this decision, we remain committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight against the job-killing carbon tax, which is making life more expensive for Ontario’s hardworking individuals, families and businesses.

“That is why we filed our appeal of the decision on the carbon tax to the Supreme Court of Canada today,” he said.

This is not surprising as Yurek and the government left the door open to an appeal back in June. The surprising part is that it was just last week that Premier Doug Ford said that they would be waiting for the completion of the Federal Election before taking any further court action.

“This carbon tax, it’s not going to be the courts that are going to decide. The people are going to decide when the election is held,” Ford said according to the CBC. “Once the people decide, I believe in democracy, I respect democracy, we move on. The people will have the opportunity, not the courts.”

“We’ll sit down and consult with the attorney general … We’ll be consulting with the cabinet and then we’ll move forward from there,” Ford said.

Instead though, we seem to be moving forward now, and at least one Member of Provincial Parliament was displeased about  the news.

“I, like many Ontarians, am frustrated that the Premier continues to waste our tax dollars on his politically motivated legal challenge to undermine climate solutions,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner in a media statement.

“Instead of working on solutions, the Premier continues to use our children’s future as a political wedge issue to attack the federal government. This is wrong and reckless,” he added. “I urge the Premier to put his time and our money towards delivering climate solutions, not wasting his time fighting a hopeless legal battle.”

Speaking of hopeless legal battles, Saskatchewan just lost a minor skirmish of its own. That province has already launched an appeal to their own carbon tax loss earlier this year when the provincial Court of Appeal ruled the GGPA constitutional, but now Saskatchewan’s request to delay their hearing at the Supreme Court has been denied, according the CBC.

The Government of Saskatchewan has asked for a delay so that they could better co-ordinate with other provinces challenging the law, but the Supreme Court said this matter needs to be handled in a timely manner in order to provide certainty for individuals, families, and businesses.

The appeal will move ahead on January 12, 2020 as previously scheduled.

When that appeal does go forward, Saskatchewan will do it without the help of Prince Edward Island. The nation’s smallest province, and its recently elected Progressive Conservative government, signed on as an intervenor in the case earlier this summer. Premier Dennis King said at the time that they were just keeping their options open.

“In this particular case, we’re just reserving the right to participate if we need to at some point,” said King, according to the CBC.

And now? “After careful review, government legal services have come to the determination and recommendation to withdraw our notice of intervention effective Aug. 30, 2019,” said a government statement released Friday. “Government must always do its due diligence as these types of important decisions have a direct impact on Islanders.”

New Brunswick remains an intervenor in the case, and is the only Atlantic province with skin in the game. New Brunswick is also one of four provinces that had a carbon tax imposed on them by the Federal government for refusing to implement a carbon pricing plan.

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