REGINA — experts in law, representatives of government and industry executives will be closely watching this week the proceedings in the court of Saskatchewan, and the federal government on the constitutionality of a tax on carbon imposed by Ottawa.
The federal government is about to impose a carbon tax to provinces that do not have a system in place from April.
The price of carbon according to the parameters established by Ottawa starts at a minimum of $ 20 per ton, and must increase by $ 10 per year until 2022.
The Party government of saskatchewan has always been opposed to this idea. The province says that the tax would hurt the economy, and considers that its own emissions reduction plan is sufficient.
The prime minister Justin Trudeau has promised that the bulk of the money from the pricing of the federal carbon would be delivered to Canadians in the form of tax refunds and argued that it was a necessary mechanism to combat climate change.
The government of Saskatchewan asked the Court of appeal of the province to determine whether a tax imposed by the federal government is constitutional and two days of hearing should begin on Wednesday.
“There is no doubt that this is a decision monumental in the life of the canadian Constitution”, said Eric Adams, a professor of law at the University of Alberta.
“The court has not yet addressed explicitly the climate change as the context of the basis for the constitutional question”, he stressed.
In the documents filed before the tribunal, the governments of canada and Saskatchewan invoke the Constitution to show that neither Ottawa nor the Saskatchewan does not exert explicit control over the environment, but that it straddles the two levels of government.
But the Saskatchewan argues that a carbon tax imposed by the federal government is “constitutionally illegitimate”, because it applies only to certain provinces.
“Under our Constitution, the federal government does not have the power to challenge the decisions of provincial regarding matters within the jurisdiction of the provinces,” said court documents filed by the province.
These documents also cite a portion of a legal notice published in 2017 by the Manitoba, which was removed from the federal plan last year.
Bryan Schwartz, a law expert, concludes that there is a strong chance that if the supreme Court of Canada was called upon to decide, it would maintain a federal tax on carbon.
All the same, the professor of law of the University of Manitoba believes that an argument of “credible”, but “not tested” could be presented on the way in which such a measure is applied. Mr. Schwartz writes that it would be possible to argue that Ottawa “would want to deny arbitrarily,” the power of manitoba, to manage emissions reductions in its own way.
Ottawa argues that climate change is a national concern and that the power of the federal government to impose a carbon tax stems from article 91 of the Constitution, under which laws may be adopted “for the peace, order and good government of Canada”.
Mr. Adams pointed out that this aspect is not often cited in the constitutional clashes, as it is difficult for the courts to define the limits of a “national concern”.
The arguments must be heard before a committee of five judges. There are also observations of 16 speakers representing both sides of the dispute.
Applicants who support the position of the federal the government of British Columbia, the David Suzuki Foundation and the First Nation Athabasca Chipewyan.
Amir Attaran, a lawyer for the First Nation in northern Alberta, maintains that a federal award of carbon is a “need constitutional”, because the effects of climate change have an impact on the rights of indigenous peoples of the North to hunt and fish.
Among the speakers on the side of Saskatchewan are allies anti-carbon tax, such as the conservative Party kingdom of the Alberta and the Ontario government, which has itself initiated legal action.
Todd Lewis, president of the Association of agricultural producers of Saskatchewan, which also has intervenor status, said he supported the position of the province, estimating that a carbon tax would disproportionately affect farmers.
Mr. Adams considers it inevitable that the conflict goes to the supreme Court of Canada.
“I think everyone understands that we are not yet in the seventh game of the Stanley cup final. We are at a preliminary round of the playoffs”, he illustrated.