Federal government’s climate policy hangs in the balance as Supreme Court considers carbon tax
The battle over Ottawa’s decision to impose a national price on carbon pollution is heading for a final showdown in front of Canada’s highest court this morning.
The Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments over the next two days on the constitutionality of the carbon pricing system — a critical part of the Liberal government’s plan to cut Canada’s carbon emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The court is hearing three separate appeals from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta — three provincial governments that argue the federal government is overstepping its authority and encroaching on provincial jurisdiction.
The debate over the carbon tax intensified last fall when then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer campaigned against the policy during the federal election, which saw the Liberals’ majority government reduced to a minority.
Since then, the issue has drifted from the spotlight. Hearings at the high court were postponed by six months due to the pandemic.
“Once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror … environmental responses to climate change are going to be the pressing political, legislative issues for the foreseeable future, ” said Eric Adams, a law professor at the University of Alberta.
Is Ottawa overstepping its authority?
The federal government says it derives the ability to impose a carbon tax from the section of the Constitution that gives Ottawa the power to legislate in the interests of “peace, order and good government” in areas not exclusively reserved to the provinces. That clause, the federal government argues, allows it to enact laws to address national concerns that are beyond the scope of one or more provinces.
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