Fighting carbon tax 'doesn't actually constitute a climate change plan': LeBlanc
Published Sunday, December 9, 2018 7:00AM EST
Several provinces are challenging the federal government’s carbon tax in court, but the federal minister overseeing interprovincial affairs says legal spats won’t do anything to stop climate change.
“Going to a Court of Appeal with a black gown on and a big briefcase doesn’t actually constitute a climate change plan,” Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade Dominic LeBlanc told CTV’s Question Period in an interview airing Sunday.
“I’ve never heard a scientist say, ‘The most important thing we can do is show up and argue for 90 minutes at a Court of Appeal.’”
LeBlanc spoke on the sidelines of the first ministers meeting in Montreal, where premiers met Friday to discuss domestic trade barriers, jobs and protecting the environment.
The federal government contends that a carbon tax is the best way to curb climate change and meet Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments. Ottawa has asked all provinces to set a minimum price on emissions of $20 a tonne by Jan. 1.
If the provinces don’t have a plan in place, Ottawa will apply its own federal carbon tax. In those cases, the federal government said 90 per cent of proceeds of the tax will be returned to taxpayers as rebates.
The federal tax will be applied April 1 in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick – the four provinces without their own carbon tax or pollution-pricing scheme.
But Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe insists that his province’s own climate change plan, which does not include a carbon tax, is sufficient – and that Ottawa’s intervention would be an overstep.
“We’ve always said its provincial jurisdiction, the federal government should not be involved,” Moe told Question Period from Montreal. “And a carbon tax in Saskatchewan simply doesn’t work.”
Saskatchewan is taking that argument to its provincial Court of Appeal in February, where lawyers for the province will challenge the carbon tax’s constitutionality. The province has argued that the carbon tax is not being applied evenly across Canada.
Shortly after Doug Ford was elected, Ontario launched its own legal challenge, calling the federal carbon tax a form of “unconstitutional disguised taxation." New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs announced earlier this week that the Atlantic province is also taking Ottawa to court, citing concerns that New Brunswickers could be forced to pay the highest gas prices in Canada.
Moe fears that a carbon tax would have national repercussions.
“Let’s be clear: in its current form it will kill not only pipeline construction but any industrial mining construction across the nation. There are amendments that need to be made to that bill, or the bill needs to be scrapped,” Moe said.
LeBlanc says the federal government is prepared for the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.
“People can go to courts of appeal, provincial governments can submit reference cases on all kinds of questions. That doesn’t surprise us, that doesn’t concern us. We’ll obviously answer those objections in court,” he said.
As for the economic effect of the carbon tax, which critics caution could threaten industries such as mining and oil production, LeBlanc cited some present-day examples.
“The (first ministers) meeting took place in Quebec. Quebec has one of the most performing economies in the Canadian federation. They have a cap-and-trade system, a price on pollution. Premier Horgan spoke eloquently about the province of British Columbia, which is performing extraordinarily well. They’ve had for over a decade a price on pollution,” he said.
“So we don’t think the argument that you can’t have an effective climate plan that includes a price on pollution and grow the economy and create jobs at the same time – the idea that you can’t do that, we think, is simply not borne out by the facts.”