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Sask. launches carbon tax challenge in court

Sask. launches carbon tax challenge in court

Sarah Mills
Sask. launches carbon tax challenge in court

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan, Premier Scott Moe and Justice Minister Don Morgan announce the court challenge against a federal carbon tax April 25, 2018. (Sarah Mills/980 CJME)

Saskatchewan’s fight against the federal carbon tax has advanced to the next round.

The government has launched a constitutional reference case in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal to challenge the federal government’s ability to impose its tax on the province.

The government is asking the court to answer a clear question on the constitutionality of the legislation Ottawa has introduced to impose the The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. The carbon tax was introduced into Parliament on March 28, 2018 as Part 5 of Bill C-74.  The question before the court is, if enacted, will this act be unconstitutional in whole or in part?

“We do not believe the federal government has the constitutional right to impose the Trudeau carbon tax on Saskatchewan, against the wishes of the government and people of Saskatchewan,” Premier Scott Moe said.  “We have a made-in-Saskatchewan plan to reduce emissions and fight climate change, and that plan does not include a job-killing carbon tax on Saskatchewan families.”

Constitutional challenge over jurisdiction

Justice Minister Don Morgan said the government’s constitutional lawyers believe the federal carbon tax legislation can be successfully challenged because it imposes a carbon tax on some provinces but not others based on how each province has chosen to exercise its own legislative jurisdiction.

“This runs contrary to the principle of federalism, which is one of the bedrocks of our constitutional division of powers because it fails to respect the sovereignty and autonomy of the provinces with respect to matters under their jurisdiction,” Morgan said.  “Simply put, we do not believe the federal government has the right to impose a tax on one province but not others just because they don’t like our climate change plan.”

Under the constitution, each level of government is sovereign within its own legislative realm.  Provinces are not subsidiaries of the federal government.  Provincial governments have the authority to set policy in areas of provincial jurisdiction, and the federal government does not have the right to override that provincial authority.

Saskatchewan climate change strategy

The Government of Saskatchewan released Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy in December 2017.

The strategy includes the development of sector-specific output-based performance standards for large emitting facilities. Some of those standards involve: increasing efficiencies in buildings by adopting the 2015 National Building Code; creating a freight strategy to improve delivery times, reducing fuel and increasing efficiency; and developing a climate resiliency model to help ensure communities are able to adapt and mitigate against the effects of climate change.

“Our made-in-Saskatchewan climate change strategy is broader and bolder than a carbon tax,” Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said.

“Our plan to reduce emissions from the electricity sector by 40 per cent and methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030 shows we are serious about tackling climate change.  Our Saskatchewan story also includes our agriculture industry that sequesters nearly 12 million tonnes of CO2 annually and carbon capture at Boundary Dam 3 that has prevented two million tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere. Saskatchewan is the solution, not the problem.”

There have been some who have been critical of the Saskatchewan Party’s green plan, arguing that it chooses jobs over the environment and doesn’t prepare for any economic changes that may be brought about by a changing climate.

At one point, Saskatchewan’s former premier, Brad Wall, stood alone in his fight against carbon tax but the political climate has changed.

Manitoba is now holding off on introducing such a tax and is looking to launch a legal challenge of its own.

As well, looming elections in Ontario and Alberta may lead to a change in government and a change in the current political position on the carbon tax.

Petroleum producers support Alta., Sask. stance on oil fight

Petroleum producers support Alta., Sask. stance on oil fight


Petroleum producers support Alta., Sask. stance on oil fight

The president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) is frustrated the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments have had to resort to potentially blocking the flow of oil to B.C.

In an interview on Gormley Tuesday, CAPP president Tim McMillan maintained B.C. Premier John Hogan is holding Canada hostage as he faces pressure from the Green Party to block the Trans Mountain pipeline project.

McMillan applauds the stance the governments of Alberta and now Saskatchewan are prepared to take to pressure the B.C. government to allow the pipeline expansion to move ahead. But he also noted he hopes it doesn’t get to that point.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government introduced legislation on Monday that would give the province power to unilaterally reduce exports of oil and natural gas. Premier Scott Moe announced the Saskatchewan government would follow suit.

“We support very much the efforts of our Saskatchewan and Alberta premiers to force this question and force this issue,” McMillan commented.

McMillan said the industry already fights so hard to get market access and one of the tools they already use is to moderate the ability to ship oil to B.C.

“There’s some thoughtfulness to it, but it still is going to affect our industry and in the short term that’s going to hurt, but in the long-term that’s what we need is market access,” McMillan commented.

He said he hopes the issue with B.C. can be resolved before legislation to block oil is actually imposed.

Canada, provinces lack clear plan to adapt to climate change, auditors say

Canada, provinces lack clear plan to adapt to climate change, auditors say

Canadian Press

Canada, provinces lack clear plan to adapt to climate change, auditors say

OTTAWA — Neither Ottawa nor the provinces have really assessed the risks a changing climate poses to the country and have no real idea what might be needed to adapt to it, said a new audit released Tuesday.

The joint audit, conducted by federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand and auditors general in nine provinces, looks at climate change planning and emissions reduction progress between November 2016 and March 2018.

It says while many governments have high-level goals to cut emissions, few have detailed plans to actually reach those goals, such as timelines, funding or expected results from specific actions.

The audit says assessments to adapt to the risks posed by climate change have been haphazard, inconsistent and lacking in detail, with no timeline for action and no funding.

The country’s emissions goals are also a hodgepodge of different targets, with no consistency in how emissions are measured or whether cuts will target overall greenhouse gas outputs or just those from specific economic sectors.

The auditors say that means there is no clarity on how Canada and the provinces and territories are going to measure, monitor and report on their contributions to meeting Canada’s international commitment to cut emissions by at least 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

As of 2015, the most recent year for which full statistics are available, Canada was nearly 200 million tonnes short of that goal, which is the equivalent of the emissions produced by about 44 million cars each year. That is twice the number of vehicles registered in Canada.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said it is the first time auditors have completed such a review of Canada’s climate change policies which is an important recognition of the priority climate change should have in government business. But she says the audit, as Gelfand herself notes, looks backwards and does not actually take into account the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

That plan was released in December 2016, after the audit’s scope was already established. It too falls short of reaching the 2030 goals however.

McKenna said the plan addresses many of the concerns in the audit, including outlining how certain policies will achieve specific emissions cuts.

“The previous government did nothing for a decade but we’re 100 per cent committed to our target,” McKenna said. “Hard things are hard, we have a plan and we’re already seeing measurable results.”

Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network, said this audit looks at what progress was made to meet Canada’s existing targets including the 2020 commitment, which Canada has abandoned knowing it has no hope of meeting it.

That target was to be 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Abreu notes that is the third international emissions target Canada has set and will miss and the Gelfand report points out the 2030 plan is at risk if Canada and the provinces don’t step it up.

All provinces but Saskatchewan are currently signed on to the pan-Canadian framework, which requires every province to put a price on pollution by the start of next year. The four biggest provinces already have one, Manitoba will add a $25-a-tonne carbon tax in September and every other province will either have to establish their own price or have a federal price imposed as of next Jan. 1.

There are potentially rough waters ahead. Saskatchewan hasn’t joined the framework and says it will sue if the federal government tries to impose a carbon price. Ontario and Alberta both have a carbon price plan in place — cap and trade for Ontario and a carbon tax system with hard caps on emissions from the oil sands for Alberta — but coming provincial elections could bring to power premiers who are running on a promise to end carbon pricing.

McKenna said not only is the clean technology industry developing in response to climate change an enormous economic opportunity, not taking climate change action will cost the government money.

“It is disappointing when you have politicians pretending that there is no cost to climate change,” she said. “Right now the cost to the federal government is in the billions of dollars to deal with the impacts of climate change, whether it’s floods, whether it’s forest fires, a melting Arctic, we need to be taking action.”


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