Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe speaks to the media at the First Ministers conference in Montreal on December 7, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz)

‘Are provinces sovereign?:’ Saskatchewan meets Ottawa in carbon tax challenge

Province argues its constitutional challenge of a federal carbon levy is about divisions of power

Lawyers for Saskatchewan and its allies warn that Ottawa’s justification for imposing a carbon price on consumers will erode provincial sovereignty under the Constitution.

“Giving Canada this degree of regulatory authority over (greenhouse gas emissions) will result in the limitless, intrusive federal regulatory capability over provincial affairs,” William Gould, for New Brunswick’s attorney general’s office, an intervener in the case, said Wednesday. “It only begins here.”

Saskatchewan’s legal counsel opened a two-day Appeal Court hearing by arguing that the province’s constitutional challenge of a federal carbon levy is not about climate change, but the divisions of power.

“This is not a case about whether climate change is real or not,” Mitch McAdam said. “The government of Saskatchewan is not made up of a bunch of climate change deniers.”

He said the question is whether provinces are “sovereign and autonomous within the areas of their jurisdiction” under the Constitution Act.

“Or under our Constitution can the federal government step in whenever it thinks provinces aren’t … exercising their jurisdiction appropriately and act for them?

“That’s really what this case is about.”

READ MORE: Smaller companies worry they can’t pass carbon tax costs to customers, poll says

Evidence presented that speaks to the gravity of climate change and effectiveness of carbon pricing is irrelevant, McAdam said.

“The fact that climate change is a serious issue does not override the Constitution.”

Ottawa’s legal position is that climate change is a national concern and the federal government has the power to impose a carbon tax under the Constitution, which states laws can be made “for the peace, order and good government of Canada.”

Alan Jacobson, a lawyer for Saskatchewan, argued that Ottawa does not meet the constitutional test to use the rationale of a “national concern.”

“How does an Ottawa policy turn into a national concern?” he asked.

Jacobson said ”of peace, order and good government of Canada” has sweeping implications and should be approached by the court with caution.

“It’s radical and intrusive. It’s absolute and exclusive,” he said. “It wishes to displace provincial space that today exists over these areas.”

Arguments that Canada is in the right because it has international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be dismissed, Jacobson added.

“Ottawa is not a big brother jurisdiction over the provinces even when it makes international commitments.”

A panel of five judges is hearing arguments from both sides as well as from interveners such as the provinces of New Brunswick and Ontario, which are also fighting the federal carbon tax.

In total, there are 16 groups intervening in the case.

Ottawa is to get its turn to present its side Thursday. Saskatchewan will have a chance to respond. Interveners in favour of a carbon tax will also speak, including Indigenous groups and environmentalists.

The Saskatchewan Party government argues a federal carbon levy is unconstitutional because it’s not applied evenly across Canada and intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. Provinces that already have their own carbon-pricing plan are not subject to the federal tax.

Saskatchewan is one of four provinces without a plan that will be subject to Ottawa’s fuel charge starting in April. New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba are the others.

The federal government’s carbon price starts at a minimum at $20 a tonne and rises $10 each year until 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Read Local Okanagan helps readers discover the valley’s literature

Pop-up bookshop features titles by Okanagan writers

Kelowna RCMP search for missing senior

Cathy Wilson has dementia and was seen leaving her care facility in Rutland

Missing and murdered Indigenous women remembered at Vernon rally

Red Dress campaign honours the memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada

Coldstream student spends half his life as Ride Don’t Hide champion

Cole Strilchuk and his family have raised more than $40,000 for local youth mental health

Public tip leads to seizure of drugs and weapons in Vernon

Concerned citizen spots male sleeping in car in residential area

VIDEO: Driver doing laps in busy Vancouver intersections nets charges

Toyota Camry spotted doing laps in intersection, driving towards pedestrians

Every situation is different, jurors hear at coroners inquest into Oak Bay teen’s overdose death

Pediatrician says involuntary treatment necessary following overdose, opioid use

RCMP across Canada to soon unionize, according to B.C. mayor

A spokeswoman for RCMP headquarters in Ottawa says it’s not yet a done deal

Penticton baby suffers injuries from fall

Emergency crews responded to a report of a fall at a residence at 4 p.m. on June 26

Explicit sex-ed guide for adults mistakenly given to Creston elementary students

The booklet clearly states online and inside that the guide contains sexually explicit information

Driver has $240K McLaren impounded minutes after buying it in West Vancouver

Officers clocked the car travelling at 160 km/h along Highway 1 in a 90 km/h zone

Kelowna’s homeless population doesn’t have much hope of finding a bed at a shelter

Central Okanagan Journey Home Society says 300 people waitlisted for supportive housing

Still months of investigation left into South Okanagan murders

Penticton came to a standstill on April 15, when John Brittain allegedly shot and killed four people

Most Read