Ontario government files carbon tax challenge with country’s top court
The province argues that Ontario's Court of Appeal was wrong to find the carbon price was constitutional and within the federal government's right to impose
TORONTO – Ontario has filed a challenge against the carbon tax with the country’s top court, a move that comes days after Premier Doug Ford said his government would decide on the fate of the legal case after the upcoming federal election.
In a notice of appeal submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada on Wednesday, the province argues that Ontario’s Court of Appeal was wrong to find the carbon price was constitutional and within the federal government’s right to impose.
The filing comes after Ford said on Friday that he would have to reassess Ontario’s position on the legal challenge if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected on Oct. 21. The premier said voters would have the ultimate say on the issue.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said Wednesday, however, that the Progressive Conservative government was nonetheless moving forward with its appeal.
“In June, we were disappointed to learn that in a split decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal did not accept our position that the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional,” he said in a statement.
“We remain committed to using every tool at our disposal to fight against the job-killing carbon tax … that is why we filed our appeal of the decision on the carbon tax to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau criticized Ontario for its appeal Wednesday, saying the province has no plan for the environment “beyond stickers on gas pumps and now a costly and unnecessary Supreme Court challenge.” He also called the case a waste of taxpayers’ money.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The Progressive Conservatives have earmarked about $30 million to fight the federal carbon price in court and wage a public relations battle with Ottawa over the tax. That fight includes making gas station owners place anti-carbon tax stickers on pumps across the province by Friday.
Ontario NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns said the appeal will leave taxpayers with a multimillion-dollar bill for a “political stunt”.
“We should be leading the fight against the climate crisis, not fuelling the fire and burning public money,” he said in a statement.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the appeal was frustrating.
“Instead of working on solutions, the premier continues to use our children’s future as a political wedge issue to attack the federal government,” he said in a statement. “This is wrong and reckless.”
Greenpeace Canada also called the Supreme Court challenge a waste of money.
“If the Ford government can’t lead on climate change, then they should at least get out of the way,” said the group’s senior energy strategist, Keith Stewart. “At a moment when the Amazon and the Arctic are literally on fire, it makes no sense to waste millions of Ontario tax dollars trying to make the climate crisis worse.”
The province had argued at Ontario’s Court of Appeal that the carbon charge is an illegal tax and a violation of the Constitution because it allows the federal government to intrude on provincial jurisdiction.
Federal lawyers had argued that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, enacted in April, would not result in an expansion of constitutional powers and was a legitimate response to potentially catastrophic climate change.
The provincial court of appeal court ruled in a split decision that the carbon pricing scheme is constitutionally sound and that the pollution pricing act was within Parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matters of “national concern.”
Ontario is just one province fighting the federal carbon price in the courts. Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba are also in the midst of legal challenges against the system.