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Ontario government appealing carbon tax decision to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa on Thursday, May 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

The Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on Ontario's legal fight over the Trudeau government's carbon tax

Progressive Conservatives say carbon charge is an illegal tax and a violation of the Constitution

Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are all in the midst of legal challenges against the carbon price

Ontario is taking its fight against the federal carbon tax to the country’s top court.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says the province is asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a decision from Ontario’s Court of Appeal that found the carbon pricing scheme is constitutionally sound.

The Progressive Conservatives say the carbon charge is an illegal tax and a violation of the Constitution because it allows the federal government to intrude on provincial jurisdiction.

Ontario’s top court ruled in a split decision in June that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, enacted in April, is within Parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matters of “national concern.”

The filing to the Supreme Court comes after Ontario Premier Doug Ford said last week that the fate of the province’s carbon tax court challenge would be decided after the federal election.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau responded to the news of the appeal with a statement saying Ford has no plan for the environment “beyond stickers on gas pumps and now a costly and unnecessary Supreme Court challenge.”

“Not content with the pain he has caused Ontarians through his deep cuts, now he is wasting their hard earned money on a lawsuit to prevent meaningful action on the environment,” said Morneau. “This is not the course Ontarians want their government to take but we will defend our plan because it is the right thing to do now and for our future.”

A failed effort?

Meantime, Amir Attaran, a law professor a the University of Ottawa — who represents one of the interveners in this case — says he thinks this legal fight is a waste of time.

“Both the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and the Ontario Court of Appeal have already ruled on exactly this question — is the federal carbon price constitutional? And both courts said it is,” he explains. “The changes of them winning at the Supreme Court are dim — it’s the dimmest candle you’ve ever seen.”

He also points out Saskatchewan’s case is already going to be heard by the top court early next year, so this is just doubling up.

“This is just Doug Ford spending money to say ‘me too,'” Attaran says.

Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are all in the midst of legal challenges against the carbon price.