REGINA — Lawyers for the federal government and its supporters are to make their case today in a Regina court on why they believe Ottawa has the legal power to impose a carbon tax on Saskatchewan.
Ottawa says it can put a price on carbon because climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions are a national concern.
The federal government has said a section of the Constitution states it can pass laws for the peace, order and good government of Canada.
Groups that support that position in Saskatchewan’s court challenge of the carbon tax include the British Columbia government, environmentalists, Indigenous groups and the Canadian Public Health Association.
A lawyer for Alberta’s Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation says a carbon tax is constitutionally necessary because climate change affects their treaty rights.
The David Suzuki Foundation is also intervening to say that Ottawa’s carbon price is a temporary measure in the face of a climate emergency.
On Wednesday, lawyers representing Saskatchewan and its allies in the fight against a carbon tax argued the case is not about climate change at all.
“The government of Saskatchewan is not made up of a bunch of climate change deniers,” Saskatchewan lawyer Mitch McAdam said.
Instead, he presented the case as a being about the balance of power between Ottawa and the provinces in a situation where the federal government is overstepping its jurisdiction.
A panel of judges also heard from the governments of Ontario and New Brunswick, which oppose the carbon tax. They argued that allowing Ottawa to justify its plan under the rationale of a “national concern” would threaten provincial sovereignty under the Constitution.
Saskatchewan is one of four provinces without a plan that will be subject to Ottawa’s fuel charge starting in April. New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba are the others.