VICTORIA – British Columbia is backing the federal government in its court battles with Saskatchewan and Ontario over Ottawa’s plan to put a minimum price on carbon pollution.
Attorney General David Eby said Tuesday that B.C. will argue the federal and provincial governments share a role in addressing climate change, but the federal government has the right and responsibility to put a price on carbon pollution.
“The significance of British Columbia’s appearance in support of the many aspects of the federal government’s arguments is that we may be the only provincial government attending court in support of what the federal government is doing with this legislation,” he said. “We think the court should hear a provincial perspective in support of the federal government’s efforts.”
Saskatchewan and Ontario are asking their respective high courts to determine whether the federal government has the authority to impose a carbon tax on the provinces.
The Saskatchewan case is slated to be heard in February, while Ontario’s challenge goes to court in April.
The federal government has given the provinces until January to come up with their own carbon pricing or have targets imposed on them. The carbon price outlined by Ottawa starts at a minimum of $20 a tonne and rises $10 annually until 2022.
New Brunswick and Manitoba also have not signed on to the federal plan.
Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said B.C.’s position is not a surprise.
“B.C. has taken a hard line position all along on pipelines, on energy, and our position has been that we’re in the energy business,” he said, adding the province is an oil exporter.
“We think the carbon tax is completely counterproductive to that so I’m not surprised at all that B.C. came out and indicated that they were going to join in the challenge the other way.”
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said the province is already leading the country when it comes to carbon pricing with its decade-old carbon tax, but it believes the provinces should follow the national climate strategy.
“We strongly believe that the only way for Canadian provinces to fight climate change is to fight climate change together,” he said. “Each province has a responsibility to take this crisis seriously and to put forward a plan to adequately price carbon pollution.”
Heyman said B.C. will also argue Canada’s overall economic competitiveness will be harmed if other provinces do not put a price on carbon.
The Ontario government introduced legislation last month to scrap the cap-and-trade system established by the province’s former Liberal government. Premier Doug Ford said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government should be ready for a fight on the carbon tax issue.
Saskatchewan argues its climate change plan is enough to reduce emissions and a federal carbon tax would hurt its economy.
—With files from Ryan McKenna in Regina.News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016