ADAM HURAS, Telegraph Journal, 7 February 2019
The Trudeau government’s carbon tax “overreaches and invades” provincial jurisdiction, according to New Brunswick’s legal argument filed in a Saskatchewan court that aims to challenge Ottawa’s looming price on carbon. The province’s attorney general’s office has filed a factum ahead of the prairie province’s carbon tax court challenge set to be heard next week.
New Brunswick sought to intervene in the case as the Higgs government attempts to fight the carbon tax slated to be handed down by Ottawa beginning in April.
Meanwhile, the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance says it has also been granted intervener status in the looming Court of Appeal reference case.
It plans to back the federal government’s move to hand down a price on carbon in New Brunswick and reject the stance of the Higgs government.
The New Brunswick submission to the court admits that “incentivizing behaviour may well be one of the most appropriate methods” to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
But that’s up to the provinces to decide, not Ottawa.
“New Brunswick says that much of it is unconstitutional,” reads the court submission, stating that the tax “overreaches and invades provincial constitutional competence to an unacceptable degree.”
“The federal Parliament has substituted a vague ‘stringency’ standard for any meaningful cooperative model for greenhouse gas emissions reduction,” it adds. It also alleges that local solutions have been “rejected without regard for local economic realities or constitutional authority,” believing that constitutes a “deep intrusion.”
“There is little doubt that it is within the authority of provinces to create carbon pricing measures tailored to local circumstances,” it maintains.
Meanwhile, the province’s anti-shale gas alliance is preparing its intervener case.
“No jurisdiction can be allowed to shirk its responsibility to cut carbon pollution and to keep its citizens safe from climate change’s devastating impacts,” alliance spokesman Jim Emberger said. “The New Brunswick government’s plans to resurrect shale gas development and to pursue development of oil pipelines are evidence that it does not grasp the urgency and seriousness of the threats posed to our communities by climate change.”
The anti-shale gas alliance argues in a submission to the court that the federal government has the jurisdiction to implement international agreements and to set minimum standards on provinces to implement them.
It also cites a section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees the life, liberty and security of the person, claiming extreme weather events caused by climate change is putting people in harm’s way.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flatly rejected a call by Premier Blaine Higgs on Tuesday to postpone imposing a carbon tax on the provinces until several court challenges aimed at striking it down as unconstitutional are decided.
Ottawa is handing down a price on carbon in New Brunswick that will cause the price of gas to go up by 4.42 cents per litre as of April 1.
But the federal government is planning to offset the financial pain with rebate cheques that New Brunswickers will also see in less than two months.
It comes after the feds rejected New Brunswick’s attempt to develop their own carbon-pricing scheme.
Still, the Higgs government is fighting the looming carbon tax in the Saskatchewan court and in a court challenge by the Ontario government and has also announced plans to launch the question in New Brunswick’s own court.
The first challenge is slated to be heard Feb. 13 and 14 in Regina.