Federal lawyer tells carbon tax hearing greenhouse gases don’t have borders
The Saskatchewan government has asked the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to rule whether a federal carbon tax is constitutional.
REGINA—A lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada says the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a matter of national concern.
Sharlene Telles-Langdon says greenhouse gases cannot be distinguished from province to province once they are emitted into the air.
She says each province’s emissions contribute to Canada’s overall greenhouse gas levels and every jurisdiction must work toward a solution.
“It’s not necessary for each of the systems in each province to be the same to achieve the objectives of the legislation or to address the matter of national concern,” Telles-Langdon said Thursday at a hearing in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. “What is necessary is that a pricing system applies throughout Canada.”
The Saskatchewan government has asked the Appeal Court to rule whether a federal carbon tax is constitutional. The province argues it is not because the tax isn’t being applied equally across the country.
Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba do not have their own carbon-pricing plan and will be subject to Ottawa’s tax starting in April. The federal government’s carbon price starts at a minimum at $20 a tonne and rises $10 each year until 2022.
“It’s not singling out any one province,” said Telles-Langdon. “There’s been a national benchmark set. Provinces can enact their own legislation. It is assessed against that benchmark.”
The federal government says it can levy a carbon tax because climate change and greenhouse gas emissions affect everyone in Canada.
It says a section of the Constitution states the federal government can pass laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada.
Lawyers for Saskatchewan and other carbon tax opponents argued in their submissions on Wednesday that Ottawa is overreaching into provincial jurisdiction.
The lawyers said the case is not about climate change at all.
“The government of Saskatchewan is not made up of a bunch of climate change deniers,” said the province’s lawyer Mitch McAdam.
He presented the question as one of a balance of power between Ottawa and the provinces.
The court’s five-judge panel also heard from the governments of Ontario and New Brunswick, which oppose the tax. They argued that allowing Ottawa to justify its plan using a rationale of “national concern” would threaten provincial sovereignty under the Constitution.