Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks with a reporter at the Conservative national convention in Halifax on August 25, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

‘You can call anything a national concern’: Alberta questions federal carbon tax

Province argues it already has the power to deal with emissions and should be left to do so

Allowing Ottawa’s carbon tax law to stand would give the federal government a tool it could use to repeatedly chip away at provincial powers, lawyers for the Alberta government argued Monday.

“If you uphold this legislation, you’re opening the door to exactly that type of thing,” Peter Gall told a panel of five Alberta Court of Appeal judges.

The federal government justifies the law under a section of the Constitution that allows Ottawa to step in over issues of “national concern.”

Gall argued such issues are rare. Greenhouse gases don’t meet the test, he said, and letting the carbon tax law stand would open the door to allowing Parliament to step in whenever it wanted.

“You can call anything a national concern,” he told court.

The Constitution gives provinces adequate power to regulate greenhouse gases and Ottawa’s legislation simply ties their hands, Gall said.

“It’s invasive in terms of taking away policy options that would otherwise be open to the provinces.”

Alberta is the latest province to challenge the tax. Ontario and Saskatchewan lost cases in their top courts, but are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The attorneys-general of Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are also to speak during the three-day hearing in Edmonton. Eight First Nations, non-governmental groups and Crown corporations have also been granted intervener status.

READ MORE: Hiking carbon tax to $210 cheapest way to hit Canada’s climate targets, commission says

Ottawa argues that authorization for the tax comes under the Constitution’s peace, order and good government clause. Establishing minimum national standards on greenhouse gas emissions “is a matter of national concern that only Parliament can address.”

University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams said using the nation concern argument to justify the law is a bit of a leap.

“The federal government made a gamble here that this was a case that was worth opening up that previously neglected box,” Adams said. “They’ve taken a bit of a risk here.”

He said he believes Alberta is unlikely to win. But if there’s a dissenting judge, that could bolster the government’s argument before the Supreme Court, which has already scheduled a January date for the Ontario and Saskatchewan appeals.

“If they don’t win, they hope for a judgment from some judges that lends weight and credibility, and maybe a new perspective to add to the dissenting opinions that have already been rendered in Saskatchewan and Ontario,” said Adams.

Three out of five Saskatchewan appellate judges agreed with Ottawa, as did four out of five of their Ontario colleagues. Past judgments have recognized the environment as a matter of shared jurisdiction.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney ditched a consumer carbon tax that the previous NDP government had brought in soon after his United Conservatives won the provincial election in April.

He has established a $30-a-tonne carbon tax on industrial emitters, replacing somewhat stronger measures introduced by the former NDP government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have approved that tax.

The consumer carbon tax is to begin in Alberta starting Jan. 1.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cattle Show set to return to Stettler Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st

“Stettler, historically, has been a very strong cattle community. It was a real hub for the cattle industry.”

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters has plenty of events lined up for the first part of 2020

January is Mentoring Month across Canada and throughout North America

RCMP remind drivers about dangers of unlocked and idling vehicles

Leaving a vehicle running unattended creates a situation that criminals find difficult to resist

Stettler Junior Curlers traveled to the Wetaskiwin bonspiel Jan. 11th and 12th

Coming up on Feb. 8th and 9th, the Club will be hosting its own junior bonspiel with 28 teams registered

Canada to bolster screening of central China passengers for virus at 3 airports

Additional measures will include messaging on arrivals screens in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver

Rebels fight back from 3-1 Raider lead to win 4-3 in shootout

Two goals by Zak Smith key to Rebels comeback

PHOTOS: Eastern Newfoundland reeling, search underway for missing man after blizzard

More than 70 centimetres of new snow fell overnight, creating whiteout conditions

Prince Harry, Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles

‘Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved members of my family,’ says Queen Elizabeth II

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Metis nations ask Ottawa to negotiate directly with them, not national body

Three provincial Metis nations will work through the national council until after the federal government releases its 2020 budget

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sylvan Lake RCMP seek assistance in locating missing male

Mark Crier, 17, was last seen in Sylvan Lake on Jan. 13

Most Read