Federal carbon tax fight heads to court

Queen's Park Toronto (BlackburnNews.com file photo by Sue Storr)

A four-day hearing gets started Monday into Ontario’s legal challenge against the federal carbon tax.

Ontario is one of four provinces where the tax has been implemented to offset carbon emissions. The other three are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick. The four provinces are a coalition that has pledged to fight the carbon tax.

Wind turbine off the 402 on the way into Sarnia, June 28 2015 (BlackburnNews.com Photo by Briana Carnegie)

Wind turbine off the 402 on the way into Sarnia, June 28 2015 (BlackburnNews.com Photo by Briana Carnegie)

Ottawa had threatened to impose the carbon tax on provinces that did not have a climate change plan by April 1. It has also said consumers in those provinces will get a direct rebate for price hikes on gasoline and home heating.

The Ford government cancelled the previous Liberal government’s cap and trade program soon after taking office last spring.

In a release sent out to media on Sunday, the Ford government said it is protecting Ontarians against what it calls an unconstitutional tax grab.

“Ontario is arguing that the provinces, not the federal government, have the primary responsibility to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and that the changes the [Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing] Act seeks to impose are in fact, unconstitutional disguised taxation.”

The hearing is set for April 15 to April 18 in the Ontario Court of Appeal. For the first time in over a decade, cameras will be allowed inside the Toronto courtroom to live stream the proceedings.

“Over the past few weeks, we have demonstrated clearly the very real cost of the federal government’s carbon tax on the people, institutions, and services of our province,” said Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Rod Phillips in the release. “Our Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan will lower emissions and put us on a path to meet our province’s share of the federal government’s targets.”

Phillips said Ontario’s plan is proof the carbon tax is unnecessary.

The plan commits Ontario to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Ford government said emissions are already down 22 per cent.

On April 3, Phillips and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott announced Ontario hospitals would pay $10.8-million in carbon taxes this year, going up to $27.2 million by 2022-2023. Phillips also said Ontario colleges and universities would have to pay out $20-million collectively by 2022-2023.

For drivers, the federal carbon tax has meant an increase at the gas pumps, while homeowners can expect to pay more for natural gas and electric heat.

Lawyers for the federal government are expected to argue that Ottawa is reacting to a national crisis with climate change.