Premier Kenney reacts to Court of Appeal ruling carbon tax is constitutional

EDMONTON – Premier Jason Kenney said his government is reviewing the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s split 2-3 ruling that the federal carbon tax is constitutional.

“We are reviewing the decision, but our initial reaction is that this narrow, split decision is far from the broad victory the federal government sought and we are glad all five justices rejected the federal government’s claim for a sweeping power to regulate GHG emissions in the provinces.

The Saskatchewan Party government asked the court for its opinion on the tax that came into effect April 1 in provinces that didn’t have its own carbon price in place.

Chief Justice Robert Richards, in a 155-page decision, said that establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions falls under federal jurisdiction.

He said Ottawa has the power to impose its carbon tax under a section of the Constitution that says Parliament can pass laws in the name of peace, order and good government.

Two Appeal Court justices disagreed in their opinion and said the federal government’s actions aren’t a valid use of that particular section of the Constitution.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe Tweeted that he was disappointed with the ruling.

A two-day hearing was held in February. The Saskatchewan government argued a carbon tax is unconstitutional because it oversteps into provincial jurisdictions and it isn’t applied evenly across Canada.

Manitoba, New Brunswick and Ontario all became subject to a carbon price last month. Manitoba filed papers in Federal Court challenging it. Ontario argued its case last month in court and waiting for a decision.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney promised he will scrap the carbon tax the former NDP government brought in and fight it in court if Ottawa tries to impose a national tax.

“We disagree with the narrow ruling by the majority that the federal government has the power to ensure a provincial minimum price on carbon, and will be joining Saskatchewan in their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Premier Kenney is a prepared statement Friday.

“That said, the new government of Alberta takes our environmental responsibilities very seriously and during the election we put forward a serious plan for reducing GHG emissions,” he added.

“We believe that our strong plan makes a federal carbon tax redundant and that a consumer-punishing retail carbon tax – whether imposed by the NDP or by Justin Trudeau ­– is the wrong way to go. It’s all economic pain and no environmental gain.” 

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna welcomed the decision.

“This is an important and welcome decision in the urgent fight against climate change, which we know is costing Canadians and the world billions of dollars and putting lives at risk,” said Minister McKenna. “A majority of the Court agreed that a price on carbon pollution is an essential part of the global effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It will also ensure Canadians are better off. The federal backstop is returning money to Saskatchewan residents through the Climate Action Incentive. A Saskatchewan family of four will get $609 this year. Most people will get more money back than they spend.

“This decision by a majority of the Court is a win for the millions of Canadians who have been telling their leaders they want serious action to deal with climate change. We will continue to defend the interests of Canadians across the country, who have seen the impacts of floods, storms, fires, and droughts. This is no time to be turning back the clock on climate action.”

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