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

PHOTOS: Lock’s Pharmacy celebrated 70 years with free street party in Chilliwack

The party was based on community spirit and giving back, says general manager David Lock

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Aug. 19 to 25

Get a free sneak peek at modern ballet performance in Chilliwack

New ballet @giselle is putting the final touches on its show at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre

Police ask public’s help locating missing Hope woman

Penelope Leslie Lackey has not contacted her family since mid-June

Rescuers pluck climbers off rock face near Mt. Slesse

Chilliwack SAR team members used long-line suspension to assist climbers

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

VIDEO: Organization’s stolen wheelchair van recovered on backroad near Hope

Wheelchair accessible van is only transportation for some people in Hope area

Officials say 50 Oppenheimer Park residents have agreed to leave, as deadline looms

Residents have been told they must be gone by 6 p.m. on Aug. 21

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

‘Do the right thing,’ implores sister of South Surrey stabbing victim

IHIT confirms male arrested in connection with Paul Prestbakmo’s death no longer in custody

Most Read