The Alberta Court of Appeal has concluded the federal government’s carbon tax is an unconstitutional intrusion into provincial powers, handing Alberta a key victory in its battle with Ottawa over climate-change policies.
In a 4-1 decision, the court rejected the federal Liberal government’s claim that the carbon tax falls within its powers to address matters of national concern under the “peace, order and good government” clause of the Constitution. The highest courts of Ontario and Saskatchewan sided with Ottawa last year in similar cases in those provinces, setting up a hearing next month where the Supreme Court of Canada will decide on the future of the federal carbon tax.
None of the rulings so far, including Alberta’s, are binding.
Writing for the majority, Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser warned that the law creating the federal tax is a “constitutional Trojan horse” that would grant Ottawa wide powers to intervene in provincial affairs. “Buried within it are wide-ranging discretionary powers the federal government has reserved unto itself. Their final shape, substance and outer limits have not yet been revealed,” she wrote.
Justice Thomas Wakeling, in a separate opinion that sided with the majority, wrote that no valid emergency exists to give the federal government such sweeping powers to impose a carbon tax.
“The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is a massive and unprecedented peacetime non-emergency invasion of Alberta’s and other provinces’ jurisdiction,” he wrote.
Ottawa imposed a consumer carbon tax on Alberta on Jan. 1, after Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government scrapped a tax created by his NDP predecessor and launched a court challenge of the federal law. The UCP government retained a carbon tax on the province’s largest industrial emitters.
Speaking with reporters after the decision was released, Mr. Kenney said his government remains firmly opposed to the carbon tax. Like other conservative leaders, he said he believes the tax punishes families for driving automobiles and heating their homes. The Premier said carbon taxes on industry, as well as stricter government regulation on pollution, would be a cheaper way to combat climate change.
“We expect the government of Canada to comply with the order from the court today and remove the federal carbon tax on Albertans. Because really folks, that tax is not about the environment,” Mr. Kenney said in Edmonton.
The Premier said he expects the Alberta court’s decision will be part of the Supreme Court’s hearing on the federal law. “This government, together with our allies across the country, will continue to defend the Constitution of Canada,” Mr. Kenney added.