Carbon tax constitutional, court rules

Ontario’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal government’s carbon tax is constitutional.

Three of the five judges on the court’s panel rejected the provincial government’s claim that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which Ottawa says will reduce Canada’s carbon footprint, overstepped federal authority. The judges spent four days debating the issue and released the court’s 93-page decision Friday afternoon.

“Parliament has determined that atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases causes climate changes that pose an existential threat to human civilization and the global ecosystem,” the decision reads. The government can tax carbon emissions because Parliament has jurisdiction to legislate in relation to matters of “national concern,” the court ruled.

The Ontario government will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Canada, Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s minister of the environment, conservation and parks, said in a joint statement with Doug Ford, Ontario’s premier.

“Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan considers our province’s specific priorities, challenges and opportunities, and commits to meeting Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions target of 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, without imposing a carbon tax on the people of our province,” Yurek said in the statement.

The Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act administers additional charges to 21 types of fuel and combustible waste along with a separate output-based pricing system for industrial facilities.

Ontario producers can be spared the tax on part of their operations by filling out an official exemption form available from the Canada Revenue Agency. The exemption covers gasoline and light fuel oil for farm use.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) would like to see farmers’ exemptions expanded, said Keith Currie, OFA’s president.

“We are a huge part of the solution when it comes to carbon sequestration but we’re not recognized for it,” Currie told Farms.com. “We recognize, as an ag community, that we have to do our part to fight climate change. As businesses, though, we can’t pass the cost of the carbon tax onto consumers like others can. When we heat our poultry barns with natural gas or propane, for example, we use large amounts of heavily taxed fuel and we’re still trying to compete in an international market.”

With the October federal election quickly approaching, Currie would like to see discussion about carbon-tax alternatives take off, he said. He knows conversations are happening in other provinces, too.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and New Brunswick also argued against the federal government’s mandatory carbon tax when the feds first announced it.

“Ontario continues to stand united with our coalition of provinces pledged to fight the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act,” Yurek said. “Ontario has intervened in Saskatchewan’s appeal of its reference to the Supreme Court of Canada and in Manitoba’s application for judicial review in the Federal Court. We will also be seeking to intervene in Alberta’s challenge.”

Saskatchewan’s provincial government lost its court challenge last month in a 3-2 split vote.

By Jonathan Martin
Staff Writer
Farms.com

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