Ford Government Loses Provincial Court Battle as Carbon Tax Ruled Constitutionally Sound

Premier Doug Ford at Troy's Diner in Milton announces the elimination of the carbon tax. August 29, 2018.

Photo: Toronto Star/Getty Images

The controversial carbon tax that Doug Ford dubbed “the worst tax ever” was ruled constitutionally sound and was deemed to have the critical purpose of fighting climate change in Ontario’s top court today.

A panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal said, in a split decision, that Parliament has the jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matters of “national concern.”

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government argued that the tax was a violation of the Constitution because it allowed the federal government to intrude on provincial jurisdiction.

However, according to Chief Justice George Strathy, the tax is within parliament’s jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matter of “national concern.”

“Parliament has determined that atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases causes climate changes that pose an existential threat to human civilization and the global ecosystem,” Strathy said.

“The need for a collective approach to a matter of national concern, and the risk of non-participation by one or more provinces, permits Canada to adopt minimum national standards to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

On the other side of the issue was Justice Grant Huscroft, who disagreed that climate change warranted an “emergency case” and warned against rhetoric influencing the constitutional analysis of the tax.

Chief among Ford’s previous criticism of the tax was its cost to taxpayers.

“By the time the federal government is done, the average household will have to pay $648 a year more in carbon tax expenses,” Ford said at a news conference today, celebrating the end of a vehicle emissions testing program.

“That may not seem a lot of money for lobbyists or activists and economists who designed the carbon tax for the federal Liberals, but it sure is a lot of money to the seniors, the truckers, the waitresses, the hardworking people I meet everywhere I go across this province.”

But during four days of submissions in April, the Ontario government took a different tack. Provincial lawyers argued the federal government would end up with the power to regulate almost every facet of life — such as when you can drive, where you can live, or whether you can have a wood-burning fireplace.

Federal lawyers alleged that the province was fear-mongering and claimed that the Liberal government’s carbon tax was a legitimate response to a potentially catastrophic climate change intended to incentivize a change in behaviour.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal issued a similar split decision last month in favour of the federal government, which the province plans to challenge in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says today’s ruling is good news for everyone who believes the need for climate action is urgent, adding that she finds it unfortunate that Conservative premiers continue to waste taxpayer dollars fighting climate change action rather than taking real action.


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