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

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

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Some examples of ‘kindness’ rocks that were painted by members of the Boys and Girls Club in Rimbey. photo submitted
The ‘kindness rock snake’ continues to take shape in Rimbey

Residents are asked to contribute a ‘kindness rock’ to a project near the Blindman Youth Action Building

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Most Read