Feds could tell you when to drive if carbon price law stands, court told

Ontario's challenge to the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is about which level of government has the power to deal with the climate change problem.

TORONTO — The federal government will end up with the power to regulate almost every facet of life – such as when you can drive or where you can live – if its law aimed at curbing harmful greenhouse gas emissions is allowed to stand, Ontario’s top court heard.

Ottawa’s climate-change law is so broad, a lawyer for the province told the start of a four-day Appeal Court hearing, that it would give the federal government powers that would be destabilizing to Canada in the name of curbing the cumulative effects of global-warming emissions.

“They could regulate where you live. How often you drive your car,” Josh Hunter told the five-justice panel. “It would unbalance the federation.”

In his submissions, Hunter was categorical that Ontario’s constitutional challenge to the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was not intended to be a debate on the realities or dangers of global warming. What’s at stake, he said, is which level of government has the power to deal with the problem.

“Which measure is the best measure – the most efficient measure – is best left for legislatures to decide,” Hunter said. “Which legislature? That’s what we’re here to decide.”

The federal government law that kicked in on April 1 imposed a charge on gasoline and other fossil fuels as well as on industrial polluters. The law applies only in those provinces that have no carbon-pricing regime of their own that meets national standards – Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

The Liberal government, which is due to make its submissions on April 16, insists its law is an appropriate response to the nationally important issue of climate change. It maintains the legislation was designed to “fill in the gaps” where provincial measures aren’t up to snuff. The aim, the government says, is to cajole people into changing their behaviour.

The federal law, Hunter also said, puts a “tax” on ordinary people every time they drive to work or heat their homes, which he said was too much of a burden.

As the justices pointed out, Ottawa is promising to return the money it collects to people in the affected provinces to offset the charge.

Hunter, however, said the rebates – via the federal climate action incentive – flow to everyone in the impacted province regardless of whether they drive at all, for example.

“It’s not just that you get back what you give,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford insists Ontario can curb greenhouse gas emissions on its own and has already taken significant steps to do so.

Those steps, Hunter told the court, include shutting down coal-fired power plants – a measure in fact taken by the previous Liberal government – which has sharply reduced the province’s harmful emissions.

“Ontario is further ahead than all the other provinces,” Hunter said. “(But) none of those (steps) count towards determining whether Ontario has a stringent plan.”

In addition, he said, the province is developing a “made in Ontario environmental plan” that is still under consideration.

Fourteen interveners, including provinces such as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, Alberta Conservatives, Indigenous organizations who point out they are acutely vulnerable to global warming, as well as business and environmental groups, will get their say over the course of the hearing.


News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016
1 Comment » for Feds could tell you when to drive if carbon price law stands, court told
  1. John McCoy says:

    I dont believe that a carbon tax is an incentive to reduce your carbon footprint. I believe thaere are much better ways to take a bite out of the carbon emissions without beating up on the individuals that need to stay warm in winter and find their way to work, school. There will be increases in the cost of food and the individuals that can afford it least will be impacted.
    A better tact is to be proactive with legislation that pushes the technology that we must use. Other part of the world have legislated that fuel burning cars will be phased out over the next few years. This makes sense. Many people will voluntarily move to a new technology if it does the job and the old alternative is not available. This way those that build the polluting devices must find a new way. The poor guy that has to buy the device is not penalized for his lack of choice.
    BTW the “incentive” recently put into our federal budget to buy electric cars is a joke. It only is available to those that buy a vehicle that is $45,000. or less. Currently that doesn’t give any choice at all. Look at the price tags. Another point is the carbon tax rebate is a joke. You pay money (tax) to the government so they can hire more people to process it and then give you back 1/2. if they give this money back then why take it in the first place ? How much of this tax is left to do something real to solve the problem when we overpay a new division of bureaucrats to take it in then give it back?

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