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

Rupert Runners share memories of beloved volunteer Leslie Peloquin

Distance runner Peloquin was a Learn to Run coach in Prince Rupert for years, inspiring many

‘Ruff week over for canine owners as Prince Rupert dog park reopens

McKay Street dog park was temporarily closed for repairs after a car crashed into fence

Prince Rupert marine business adds second catamaran to its fleet

100-passenger Aurora was launched this year for the Rio Tinto Kemano tunnel project

Sustainble economy flourishing in Haida Gwaii and Great Bear Rainforest thanks to First Nations investments

From 2008-2018, funding initiatives led to more than $286 million in new investments

Kerbrat back in command of Prince Rupert golf scene

Strong putting game helps reclaim the title

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

WEB POLL: Would you like to see another mural go up where Zorba’s Taverna’s old one used to be?

The iconic quirky mural from Prince Rupert’s Greek restaurant was painted over this week

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Most Read