Provincial lawyers are going to argue against the carbon tax in Alberta’s Appeal Court on Dec. 16, 2019. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Provincial lawyers are going to argue against the carbon tax in Alberta’s Appeal Court on Dec. 16, 2019. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Alberta, Ottawa head to province’s Appeal Court over carbon tax dispute

EDMONTON — About a year ago, Alberta’s United Conservative Party leader stood in front of 1,500 raucous supporters and called the federal carbon tax an act of “economic masochism” that he would fight with everything in his power if he were elected premier.

Jason Kenney did win the election last spring, and government lawyers are to argue today before Alberta’s Appeal Court that he should win his tax fight, too.

“Alberta says that this is an unwarranted and unprincipled intrusion into provincial jurisdiction,” says the province’s written argument. “It undermines the basic structure of our constitutional system.”

Two other provincial Appeal Courts have begged to differ. Ontario and Saskatchewan lost their challenges of the federal tax on carbon, although both judgments had dissenters.

Eric Adams, a University of Alberta law professor, said he doesn’t expect to hear any new arguments on Monday.

“It’s just a new panel of judges to bring these arguments in front of,” he said.

“The argument is that justice on a local level requires judges who live in a jurisdiction and understand its peoples and its concerns. Sometimes, constitutional arguments made in a particular place can have the flavour of that particular place.”

Adams 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 of Canada, 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.

Ottawa argues that the peace, order and good government clause of the Constitution gives it power to pass legislation on matters of national concern. Establishing minimum national standards on greenhouse gas emissions “is a matter of national concern that only Parliament can address,” it argues.

Alberta says using that clause is an unwarranted expansion of a federal power that in the past has been used sparingly. It says provinces already have the power to deal with emissions and should be left to do so.

“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.”

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.

Either way, Adams cautions against putting too much weight on these cases. If current arguments for a national carbon tax are rejected, the federal Liberals have invested too much political capital not to try new ones, he suggested.

“If they lose the case, they’ll look at other ways to bring legislation that can deal with the climate crisis. No matter how this case goes, it won’t be the end of parliamentary attempts to deal with climate change.”

Kenney ditched a consumer carbon tax that the previous NDP government had brought in soon after his party won the election. He has established a $30-a-tonne carbon tax on industrial emitters, replacing somewhat stronger measures introduced by the New Democrats. The Trudeau Liberals have approved that tax.

Arguments are scheduled for three days. As well as Alberta and Canada, the attorneys-general of Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are to speak, as are eight First Nations, non-governmental groups and Crown corporations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2019.

carbon tax

Just Posted

New admissions have been suspended for Engineering Technology diplomas (Instrumentation, Electrical and Mechanical) and the Transitional Vocational Program at Red Deer College. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Developmentally disabled impacted: Red Deer College suspends program

Transitional Vocational Program comes to an end

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman holds up freedom of information requests that turned up no records. The Opposition requested back-to-school re-entry plan correspondence between Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and school boards, teachers and the media. Photo via Facebook live
NDP renews calls for Alberta gov’t to scrap K-6 draft curriculum

The NDP is once again calling on the Alberta Government to get… Continue reading

Earlier this week Alberta Health Services warned that Rocky Mountain House Health Centre emergency department would be temporarily without physician coverage from May 12, at 6 p.m., to May 13, at 7 a.m. (Photo contributed by the Town of Rocky Mountain House)
Doctors needed in Rocky Mountain House

Emergency department temporarily closed due to doctor shortage

The owner of Mae’s Kitchen in Mirror, says hamlet residents were ‘disheartened’ by a recent anti-restriction protest. The restaurant is following all the health restrictions in place. (Photo courtesy Mae’s Kitchen Facebook)
‘We don’t need that’: Mirror restaurant against recent anti-restriction protest

A week after a large anti-restriction protest at The Whistle Stop Cafe… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) scores on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as TJ Brodie (78) defends during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday, May 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Connor scores twice, Jets beat Leafs in regular-season finale

Atletico Ottawa defender Vashon Neufville controls the ball during Atletico Ottawa’s first team practice of their inaugural season in the Canadian Premier League in Ottawa, Wednesday June 3, 2020. The Canadian Premier League plans to kick off its third season mid-June to early July in one location without fans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie
Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Canadian Premier League delays kickoff again, looks to mid-June to early July start

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Calgary’s Stephen Ames shoots 66 to take Mitsubishi Electric lead

Nashville Predators goaltender Juuse Saros (74) deflects a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, May 8, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

NHL postseason: Who’s hot as the playoffs arrive?

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, celebrates a goal with teammates during third period NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens, in Ottawa, Wednesday, March 5, 2021. Brown will lead a young Canadian squad into the world hockey championship in Riga, Latvia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

Ottawa forward Connor Brown leads Canada’s roster at world championship

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford shakes hands with people associated with the hall before a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils in Toronto. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association is forging ahead in its bid to establish an economically sustainable professional league in North America with or — for now — without the NHL’s full financial backing. In response to Sportsnet.ca reporting the NHL was not in a position to operate a women’s league for the foreseeable future, PWHPA executive Jayna Hefford wrote in an email to The Associated Press late Thursday that her group has begun developing what she called “a parallel path for a future that doesn’t rely on NHL support.” (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

PWHPA forging ahead without NHL backing of women’s hockey

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

‘No secrets’ and no certainty in one-of-a-kind NHL playoffs

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

Most Read