Supreme Court may hear multiple carbon tax challenges

When Saskatchewan argues before the Supreme Court of Canada this fall that the federal carbon tax in unconstitutional, it may not be arguing its case alone.

Saskatchewan attorney general Don Morgan said this week that the Supreme Court of Canada may hear challenges from other provinces at the same time.

Alberta is also challenging the legality of the federal carbon tax and, according to Alberta attorney general Doug Schweitzer, the province is acting to have its arguments heard at the Supreme Court this fall, along with Saskatchewan’s.

Ontario and New Brunswick are also opposed to Ottawa’s federally imposed carbon tax and have been granted intervenor status in Saskatchewan’s hearing, schedule for early December.

Speaking to reporters on July 30, Morgan said the Supreme Court may be inclined to hear Saskatchewan’s case and Alberta’s at the same time.

“I think it’s important to get it done as quickly as we can, so I’m pleased that when I talk to my counterparts across the country, that they’re all moving as expeditious as they can to get their material in and be able to get it heard as quickly as we can,” Morgan said.

Attorneys general from Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick met with Morgan in Saskatoon last week to discuss legal strategies aimed at combining efforts and challenging Ottawa’s carbon tax in a more collaborative manner.

Morgan said the province has also held meetings with legal counsel from Manitoba and has also had discussions with legal experts from Quebec.

He said legal opposition to the federal carbon tax plan is mounting.

More than half of the provinces, representing more than 50 percent of Canada’s population now oppose the federal carbon tax, he said.

“Let me start off by saying that climate change is caused by human activities and it’s a serious threat. It’s a threat that requires a concerted and collaborative effort … but it’s a threat that the provinces are equipped to deal with,” Morgan said.

“We oppose the federal legislation that singles out provinces that are addressing the challenge of climate change (with solutions) that don’t fit the federal government’s arbitrary targets

The July 30 meeting in Saskatoon is expected to be the only face-to-face meeting involving provincial attorney generals before the Supreme Court of Canada hears the legal appeals related to carbon tax implementation.

Morgan described the July 30 meeting in Saskatoon as a “good and valuable and meaningful exchange of ideas and strategies.”

He declined to say how much Saskatchewan’s legal challenge would ultimately cost the province’s taxpayers but said it’s important to determine where federal jurisdiction over environmental issues begins, and where provincial jurisdiction ends.

Schweitzer said the legal challenge is “mission critical” for the Alberta government, which will take every step possible to protect the province’s jurisdiction over environmental issues.

Morgan said a change of government at the federal level could result in the federal carbon tax being repealed.

However, the province will proceed with legal preparations, nonetheless.

Saskatchewan lost a carbon tax challenge in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal earlier this year.

In June, Ontario also lost a similar legal appeal in that province.

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