Ontario ‘alarmist’ over federal powers if carbon pricing law stands, court hears

TORONTO — The federal government says Ontario is being “alarmist” in its fight against Ottawa’s carbon pricing law.

It says there is no merit to the province’s claim that Ottawa will gain vast new powers.

A provincial lawyer on Monday told Ontario’s top court the law is unconstitutional because it strays far into provincial powers.

He said the federal government could be able to tell people when to drive or where to live if the law stands.

Today, a lawyer for the federal government disputed that notion.

She says Ottawa’s only aim is to curb dangerous climate-changing emissions, which do not respect provincial boundaries.

In her submissions to the Ontario Court of Appeal, Sharlene Telles-Langdon stressed the urgency in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stop global warming scientists say will be catastrophic. The provinces, she said, simply can’t do it on their own.

“There is a gap in Canada’s ability as a nation to meet the challenge as it now faces,” Telles-Langdon told the five-justice panel. “The federal power is directed toward a national measure, one that cannot be adopted by the provinces. This act is on the right side of that line.”

At issue is the validity of federal legislation that kicked in on April 1 and which imposes a charge on gasoline and other fossil fuels as well as on industrial polluters. The law applies in those provinces that have no carbon-pricing regime of their own that meets national standards.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government under Premier Doug Ford has denounced the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act as an illegal tax grab that will force up the price of gasoline and heating fuel.

Telles-Langdon, however, argued the act respects provincial jurisdiction and recognizes the validity of provincial systems in relation to local industry regulation.

“It’s the same throughout Canada,” Telles-Langdon said. “What it does is ensure a national system.”

The Canadian Press

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