In a recent ruling from the Alberta Court of Appeals, the notorious federal carbon tax was deemed unconstitutional in a 4-1 decision. The decision read that, “the act is a constitutional Trojan Horse … Almost every aspect of the provinces’ development and management of their natural resources … would be subject to federal regulation.”
While I am not the biggest fan of the federal government’s carbon tax (mainly because 80 per cent of emissions from oil and gas companies are exempt, according to HuffPost), I really don’t have time for the ‘Scrap the Carbon Tax’ movement anymore.
The arguments from conservatives in this country against the carbon tax are rich, especially when you look at the embarrassing ‘climate plans’ they’ve spit up in response. In Ontario, for example, increasing household recycling is one of the few core tenants of their provincial climate plan (not a joke). Andrew Scheer’s lack of a climate plan was one of the major reasons he and his party weren’t taken seriously by a vast majority of Canadians in the last election and rightfully so.
To argue that penalizing our largest carbon emitters (like oil and gas companies) to fund renewable energy projects throughout the country will not have a net positive impact and drive down emissions is just patently false. Look at the facts, in British Columbia, Ontario (pre-Doug Ford), Quebec, California, the United Kingdom the list goes on, evidence-based carbon pricing systems have and continue to reduce emissions, period.
That’s why this ruling is so frustrating. To not only fight one of the few national measures in place to address the climate crisis is one thing, but to do it from a ‘provincial rights’ angle is sad. If the environment and climate change is not a national issue (nay, a global issue) then shouldn’t all emissions stay within their provincial borders? In that case, good luck to everyone out there in Alberta.
What’s worse of all however is that such a high level court in this country actually sided with this argument (though there was one reasonable person on that bench).
At the very least, while the appeals court may have ruled the carbon tax to be unconstitutional, it can’t strike down the law itself. That power lies with the Supreme Court of Canada, who will be hearing a case on the carbon tax from several provincial governments in the near future, though thankfully that court isn’t bought and paid for by oil and gas.
The time for debate on whether the climate crisis is a serious issue or not is over, plain and simple. Nearly 65 per cent of Canadians voted for at least some climate action in 2019, with the current carbon tax really being the bottom of the barrel. In Ontario, 60 per cent of people voted for it as well in 2018 (though we still got stuck with the incompetent Ford government, but I digress).
The biggest issue with this ridiculous argument for or against carbon pricing is that it lets the Liberals paint themselves as the good guys, despite their plan being extremely lackluster as I mentioned before. The carbon tax simply doesn’t go far enough to hold the largest polluters accountable. The current issue is that the ‘Scrap the Carbon Tax’ people are holding us back from having that debate, instead making us defend the current weak sauce plan.
Hopefully this minor ‘victory’ for this provincial anti-science movement is the end of the road for the ‘Scrap the Carbon Tax’ movement, once and for all. Likely, it’s going to take a few more electoral defeats, but at the very least the Supreme Court decision should allow us to move on from these horribly counter productive debates and start really advocating for climate leadership from Canada. To still be dragging our feet on this carbon tax that was considered lacklustre when it was first proposed back in 2015 not only hurts our political discourse, but more importantly, leaves our future in jeopardy.