OTTAWA — The battle royale over carbon pricing in Canada is heating up even more with environment groups seeking to back the federal government in a Saskatchewan court challenge.
The David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are applying for intervener status when the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal considers the constitutionality of Ottawa’s law imposing carbon pricing on provinces that don’t have their own.
Saskatchewan argues the law is unconstitutional because it applies a federal carbon tax unevenly on provinces based on whether Ottawa thinks a province’s climate change action plan is good enough.
Ottawa, however, argues that carbon pricing and reducing emissions falls within federal jurisdiction because pollution doesn’t respect provincial borders and, if one province fails to do its part, it will impact all the others.
Ecojustice lawyer Joshua Ginsberg says climate change is a national emergency posing serious risks to human health and the environment across the country which therefore means Ottawa absolutely has jurisdiction to impose carbon prices.
The two groups also plan to seek intervener status in a similar challenge being brought by the Ontario government.
The Saskatchewan case is set to be heard in February, with the intervenor assessment to take place next month. No hearing has yet been set for the Ontario case.
Ottawa passed legislation earlier this year allowing it to impose carbon pricing on jurisdictions that don’t have their own. After reviewing the climate plans of every province and territory, the government concluded earlier this fall that four provinces did not meet the federal standard.
Starting in April, Ottawa will start charging a $20-per-tonne price on carbon emissions in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Ninety per cent of the revenues raised will be returned to residents in those provinces via an income tax credit. The rest is to be set aside to help businesses and local organizations in those provinces that can’t pass on the extra costs by hiking consumer prices.
Saskatchewan is the only province that never agreed to any form of carbon pricing and argues it has a plan that will cut emissions without one.
Ontario had a cap-and-trade system that was cancelled by the new Progressive Conservative government earlier this year. On Nov. 29, the Ontario government unveiled the broad strokes of its climate plan that does not include any kind of price on emissions.