Alberta Premier Jason Kenney vowed to keep fighting the federal carbon tax.
Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada said the federal carbon price is entirely constitutional. In a split decision, the court upheld a pivotal part of the Liberal climate-change plan, accounting for at least one-third of the emissions Canada aims to cut over the next decade.
“We are obviously disappointed with that decision. The Supreme Court ignored the Alberta Court of Appeals warning and discovered a new federal power that erodes provincial jurisdiction and undermines our constitution federal system,” Kenney said.
“We’ll take time to study that decision in detail… we’ll continue to fight to defend our exclusive provincial power to regulate our resource industry, that is guaranteed in section 92A of the constitution.”
Kenney said Alberta would respect the decision, while also consulting with Albertans and ally provinces on next steps.
“To determine the best way forward to protect jobs and the economy in Alberta. To minimize the cost of any future policies on this province. There are a number of different options we are considering,” he said.
The premier added while the legal options are limited to fight the decision, it was clear there is plenty of support for Alberta’s opposition to the federal carbon tax.
“It’s clear that the position taken, not just by Alberta but six of the provinces representing 80 per cent of Canada’s population was a strong and credible position and it’s a challenge that had to be made,” he said.
“We’re not going to back down, on defending our jobs and our economy and our powers under the federation.”
In addressing a question about Alberta potentially implementing its own provincial carbon tax, as the NDP did in 2017, Kenney said he would go with whatever ever approach does the least harm to the province’s economy.
“The key criteria will be which approach imposes the least damage on jobs and Alberta’s economy and the least cost on Alberta families,” he said.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner said in the written ruling that climate change is a real danger and evidence shows a price on pollution is a critical element in addressing it.
“It is a threat of the highest order to the country, and indeed to the world,” Wagner wrote for six of the nine judges.
Given that, said Wagner, Canada’s evidence that this is a matter of national concern, is sound.
“The undisputed existence of a threat to the future of humanity cannot be ignored,” he wrote.
Justice Suzanne Cote dissented in part, agreeing climate change is an issue of national concern but taking issue with the power the federal cabinet gave itself to adjust the law’s scope, including which fuels the price would apply to.
Justices Malcolm Rowe and Russell Brown dissented with the entire decision, arguing Canada had not shown that climate change reaches the level of national concern. They objected that the precedent the majority’s decision sets would allow Ottawa to set minimum national standards in all areas of provincial jurisdiction.
Wagner pushed back, finding there is a limited scope for national standards that is unchanged by this ruling.
Canada implemented the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act in 2019, setting a minimum price on carbon emissions in provinces that don’t have equivalent provincial prices, a law that was challenged by Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta.
The program applies a price per tonne to fuel purchases by individuals and businesses with lower emissions, and on part of the actual emissions produced by entities with large emissions, such as pipelines, manufacturing plants and coal-fired power plants.
-With files from the Canadian Press