Sask. government loses carbon tax challenge after Supreme Court rules it is constitutional
REGINA -- Saskatchewan has lost its challenge against the carbon tax, following a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada saying the federal carbon pricing is constitutional.
The tax has been a main source of conflict between Ottawa and the Saskatchewan government since it was first brought in by the Liberal party three years ago.
Premier Scott Moe released a statement following the decision, maintaining that he feels the federal carbon tax is bad for the environment and economy.
"While the Supreme Court has determined that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has the legal right to impose a carbon tax, it doesn’t mean he should, and it doesn’t make the carbon tax any less punitive for Saskatchewan people," Moe said.
The court reached a split 6-3 decision on the matter.
"The ruling comes with a strong dissenting opinion – one that warns that this decision has far reaching implications for federal intrusion into areas of our provincial jurisdiction," the premier added.
Moe called the introduction of the Carbon Tax, a “stunning betrayal” from Canada’s Prime Minister, at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Moe said although the legal fight is over, the provinces objection to the levy is not.
“Standing up for Saskatchewan people is always a fight that’s worth having,” Moe said, when asked if perusing the legal challenge was worthwhile.
“This decision does not make that tax any less punitive to the single mom, trying to put gas in her car to take her kids to daycare,” he said.
In a statement, NDP opposition leader Ryan Meili said the party does not support the current federal carbon pricing and encouraged Moe to find a better option.
"With the decision reached today, Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government must act quickly to negotiate a better deal that protects Saskatchewan’s economy and gives working families a break," Meili said.
CLIMATE ACTIVISTS CELEBRATE RULING
In a virtual press conference on Thursday morning hosted by EnviroCollective, several Saskatchewan climate activist groups celebrated the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision.
“This is a day for celebration,” Mark Bigland-Pritchard, a consultant with Climate Justice Saskatoon, said. “This decision today means not only carbon pollution pricing can be driven federally, but so can the multiple other complimentary measures that are needed to push down our emissions and replace our current fossil dependents with clean green energy options.”
He said the federal government should now focus on increasing their emission reduction targets.
“In order to do our fair share as a country, we need to at least double their reduction target for 2030 from 30 per cent to 60 per cent reduction of emissions,” Bigland-Pritchard said.
He said the provincial government should now be putting a “real plan” together to bring Saskatchewan’s emissions down to hit the national targets.
“It is entirely possible in this sunny, windy province and as far as energy efficiency is concerned, there’s plenty of low hanging fruit here,” he said.
Larissa Shasko, the chair of EnviroCollective, said this decision means Canadians have one less thing to feel uncertain about.
“Now it’s time for action, it’s time for climate action,” she said. “Carbon pricing has an important role to play as it builds on a strategy to move society off our fossil fuels and to rapidly kickstart our economy by harnessing the power of renewables.”
Shasko said the province has an abundance of low carbon energy options.
“We are well positioned to move forward as climate action leaders instead of the climate action stallers that our provincial government has been throughout the process,” she said.
CARBON TAX HISTORY
The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was introduced in the House of Commons on March 28, 2018. The legislation imposed a federal carbon tax on provinces that did not have their own carbon pricing system.
The Saskatchewan government launched a constitutional challenge in April 2018, claiming the federal government did not have the right to impose the tax on provinces.
The case first went to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, which ruled against the provincial government in May 2019. The government then decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court.
Other provinces have also challenged the levy. An appeals court in Ontario ruled in 2019 that the legislation was constitutional. In 2020, the Alberta Court of Appeal said it was not.
Fighting the carbon tax was part of the Sask Party’s platform in last fall’s provincial election.
During a campaign speech, Premier Scott Moe said if the Saskatchewan government wins its court fight against Ottawa, all SaskPower customers can expect to save an additional $150 million total per year.
Ahead of the prime minister’s Throne Speech in September, Moe wrote a letter to Justin Trudeau reiterating his opposition to the tax and asking for a pause on the federal pollution charge until the Supreme Court hears Saskatchewan’s challenge of the policy.
In September, the Supreme Court of Canada reserved judgement on the case after two days of hearings and presentations from dozens of parties from multiple provinces.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTVNews.ca