CCentral-Main-logo-EN-trans

Convenience Central
Join our community
extra content
Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.45.10 AM

Alberta Appeal Court sides with Alberta on federal carbon tax

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.44.00 AMThe Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled that the federal carbon tax is not constitutional.

In a 4-1 decision, the court says the legislation that brought in the tax erodes provincial jurisdiction.

The Alberta government had argued in its challenge of the tax that climate change isn’t a national issue requiring overriding federal intervention.

The federal government countered by saying climate change is a national and global concern that can’t be left to each of the provinces to take on alone.

The majority of the Appeal Court judges sided with the province.

“The act is a constitutional Trojan horse,” said the portion of the decision written by three of the four majority justices.

The court rejected federal arguments that reducing greenhouse gases met the legal test of being a national concern.

“Almost every aspect of the provinces’ development and management of their natural resources … would be subject to federal regulation.”

It noted health care, minimum wages and justice are all national concerns but are administered by the provinces.

The court ruled that, for something to be a national concern within federal jurisdiction, it would have to be beyond the scope of provincial powers.

Monday’s decision is the first to side with a province against the federal government.

Courts in both Saskatchewan and Ontario upheld the federal levy last year.

The Supreme Court of Canada is to hear Saskatchewan’s appeal of its court’s decision this spring.


Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Manitoba carbon tax a maybe, Pallister says after meeting Trudeau in Winnipeg

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is holding out the possibility of imposing a carbon tax in his province as he tries to fashion a green plan that will meet with the federal government’s approval.

But he’s simultaneously warning that Ottawa will have to show some flexibility if it wants him to continue playing the role of bridge-builder to the other two Prairie provinces, where talk of western alienation and outright separation has escalated since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won re-election on Oct. 21.

“The prime minister has said and numerous of his colleagues have said that they are seeking to build a stronger country. To do that, Manitoba is the bridge,” Pallister said Monday after a 30-minute meeting with Trudeau, who is in Winnipeg for a federal cabinet retreat.

“If you can’t get along with friendly Manitobans, there’s a lot of other Canadians you can’t get along with.”

Pallister’s government initially came up with a green plan that included a carbon tax that was below the national standard set by the Trudeau government. He scrapped the plan when it was rejected by Ottawa and joined his fellow conservative premiers in challenging the federal carbon-tax backstop in court.

Ottawa is imposing its tax on provinces that have refused to meet the national standard for pricing carbon emissions: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The national tax was initially imposed in New Brunswick as well but that province came up with its own tax after the election, which has since been approved by the feds.

Pallister said he’ll unveil a new green plan and discuss it with the federal government “in the not-too-distant future.” That dialogue, he added, “will include a carbon price of some kind.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew said a carbon tax is “long past due” and Pallister should stop fighting it.

Whereas the national carbon tax is structured to escalate over time, Pallister indicated that he believes any tax should be “flat and low like the prairie horizon.”

Moreover, he said Ottawa must give Manitoba credit for steps it’s already taken to reduce carbon emissions, such as investing in clean hydroelectricity.

“We’ve put billions of dollars at risk to green up the environment and we deserve respect for that,” Pallister said.

“We deserve to be respected for our green record. We do not deserve to be called climate-change deniers by anybody … We want acceptance of our made-in-Manitoba green strategies.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has been travelling the country meeting with premiers and others in a bid to mend some of the deep divisions exposed by the election, said she and the prime minister already have “lots of respect for Manitoba.”

“I hope (Pallister) would agree that we have a very effective, friendly working relationship with him and we really appreciate that,” said Freeland, who is also the intergovernmental affairs minister. She sat in on Monday’s meeting between the two leaders.

“Manitoba occupies an important and valued geographic position in the country. It’s fair to describe Manitoba as being in the heart of the country and co-operating with the premier is really valuable to us.”

But extending that co-operation to watering down the federal carbon-pricing regime for Manitoba seems unlikely.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson was not enthusiastic Monday about crediting the province for past measures to reduce emissions.

“We have to be forward-looking with climate change,” he said after making an announcement elsewhere in Winnipeg.

“At the end of the day, the challenge that we are facing is one of the emissions that exist today. We need to … have plans as to how we’re going to reduce the emissions that exist today on a go-forward basis.”

Trudeau’s tete-a-tete with Pallister came on the second day of a three-day federal cabinet retreat, being held in Winnipeg in a bid to reach out to a region that spurned Trudeau’s Liberals in the Oct. 21 election.

The election reduced the Liberals to a minority. They were entirely shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Liberal environmental and climate policies are widely blamed for gutting the energy industry.

Manitoba, where the Liberals lost three of seven seats, is somewhat friendlier turf.

Pallister has signalled his willingness to work with Ottawa, in stark contrast to the other openly hostile Prairie premiers, Alberta’s Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe.

“We pride ourselves here on being Canadian first and we have the opportunity to, I think, partner in an improved way on several major files that I think Canadians will appreciate,” Pallister said as he sat down with Trudeau.

The Trudeau government has so far gotten little credit in the other Prairie provinces for its controversial decision to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline to ensure plans for its expansion go ahead – a decision that cost Liberals support among environmentalists and progressive voters.

But now that construction is actually underway and the Supreme Court last week cleared away another legal hurdle to the project, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan expressed hope Sunday that tempers will cool down a bit in the West.

The expanded pipeline is to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the British Columbia coast for export overseas.


Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.45.10 AM

Alberta justice minister says province will ‘fight back’ against carbon tax

Alberta is promising to continue its fight against the federal consumer carbon tax as the price of gasoline in the province is set to jump.

The federal Liberals are accompanying the tax with a rebate program.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer told a news conference at a Calgary truck stop on December 31 that people should gas up quickly.

“We want to make sure as well that Albertans know that even though our taxes are going up, that we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that we fight back against this federal overreach and make sure Albertans know that we have their backs,” Schweitzer said.

The federal government says the average Alberta household will receive about $880 under the rebate program, which is about $170 more than it is expected to pay.

Schweitzer said he doesn’t believe that will be the case.

“I don’t buy that at all. Look at Albertans right now. Alberta is struggling. We need jobs in this province,” he said.

“The cost of everything is going to start going up.”

The four-cent increase represents a carbon tax of $20 per tonne of carbon dioxide, increasing to $30 in the spring.

Those who live in small or rural communities will receive a higher rebate, and fuel used for farm machinery can be exempted from the tax.

Municipalities, public institutions, small businesses and Indigenous communities are also to receive extra funding to help them lower their energy costs.

Alberta is challenging the federal tax in the province’s Court of Appeal. Arguments were heard in December and the court has yet to rule.

Ontario and Saskatchewan lost previous challenges of the tax in their top courts and are appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada. Alberta is supporting them in their legal action.

“We’re waiting to see what the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision will have in the New Year. And we’re hoping to have that decision done before the Supreme Court case, which is going to be heard in March,” Schweitzer said.

“We’re going to keep that fight going. This is federal overreach plain and simple. This is clearly provincial jurisdiction.”

Alberta had a consumer carbon tax under the previous New Democrat government, which was rescinded by the United Conservatives in May. The government has since imposed a carbon tax of $30 a tonne on industrial emitters, which has been approved by Ottawa.

“Alberta is doing its part to tackle global emissions. Our plan invests in real technological solutions. It doesn’t punish people for driving to work and heating their homes,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday on Twitter.

He said his government won’t relent in its legal fight against the consumer tax.

“We won’t roll over like the previous NDP government did. This is Alberta’s jurisdiction, and we will fight for it.”


Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.45.10 AM

Carbon tax rebate amounts reduced in four provinces

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 10.44.00 AMThe federal government has decreased the carbon tax rebates Canadians can expect in the new year in three provinces that have not adopted carbon pricing models that meet federal requirements.

The government has also added Alberta to the mix after that province’s United Conservative party repealed the previous government’s consumer carbon tax.

The biggest drop in the rebate will be in Saskatchewan, where the federal Finance Department says a family of four will qualify for rebates totalling $809 in 2020, down from the $903 that was projected last year.

In Ontario, the rebate for a family of four has been set at $448, down from $451, while families in Manitoba will receive $486, a decrease from $499.

A family of four in Alberta will see a rebate of $888 in 2020.

The rebates are meant to offset the added consumer costs resulting from Ottawa’s carbon tax of $20 per tonne of carbon emitted into the atmosphere for 2020, rising to $30 per tonne in 2021.

The Trudeau government has maintained that most households will receive more money back through the rebates than they pay in carbontaxes on things such as gasoline and home-heating fuels.

The carbon tax scheme was introduced earlier this year as a way to encourage Canadians to use less carbon-based products, thereby reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

Here are the rebate amounts for individuals and families, by province, in 2020, according to a government statement:

Ontario:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $224

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $112

Each child under 18 – $56

Baseline amount for a family of four – $448

Manitoba:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $243

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $121

Each child under 18 – $61

Baseline amount for a family of four – $486

Saskatchewan:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $405

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $202

Each child under 18 – $101

Baseline amount for a family of four – $809

Alberta:

Single adult or first adult in a couple – $444

Second adult in a couple or first child of a single parent – $222

Each child under 18 – $111

Baseline amount for a family of four – $888


Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 3.50.33 PM

‘You can call anything a national concern:’ Alberta questions federal carbon tax

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.

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.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in a statement Monday that Ottawa doesn’t always know best.

“Even if you support a carbon tax, it doesn’t mean that the federal government’s carbon tax is the best or only approach for every province,” he said.

“Each province is unique, with different economies, different demographics, and different geographies. That is why our federation is structured to give provinces the right to make our own laws and regulations over businesses when it comes to issues like reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

 


shutterstock_772541140

Feds approve Alberta’s carbon tax on big industrial emitters

shutterstock_772541140
The federal government is giving the Alberta government a passing grade for its industrial carbon tax.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says his department agrees Alberta’s planned $30-a-tonne carbon price on emissions from big industry meets federal requirements.

However the climate battles between Ottawa and Edmonton will continue because on Jan. 1 the federal government will still start applying its carbon tax on the purchase in Alberta of fuels like gasoline, natural gas, and propane.

Alberta used to have a consumer carbon tax on fuel but Premier Jason Kenney and the newly elected United Conservative Party cancelled it earlier this year.

A fuel surcharge and a carbon tax for big industry are the two components of the national carbon pricing system applied in any province without similar systems of their own.

Since April, Ottawa has applied the fuel surcharge in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick but Saskatchewan was exempted from most of the big-industry element because it has a version that Ottawa deemed strong enough.


Feds go around Manitoba government to get carbon tax funds to schools

Ottawa is going around the Manitoba government in order to give $5.4 million in carbon tax revenues to the province’s schools in the latest carbon-tax battle between the federal Liberals and a provincial Conservative government.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister last month refused to play ball and help the federal government distribute carbon tax revenues so schools in his province could make energy efficient upgrades.

Manitoba’s share is from $60 million available this year for schools in the four provinces affected by the federal carbon price – Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Although all four governments are opposing the tax in court, only Manitoba wouldn’t agree to work with the federal Liberals to distribute the funds to local school boards.

Ottawa expects to raise about $2.3 billion this year from the $20 levy it is applying to fuels for every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions they produce when burned. Ninety per cent is being returned to individual households through income tax rebates, but some was set aside to help small businesses, schools, universities, hospitals, municipalities and Indigenous communities.

Alan Campbell, president of the Manitoba School Boards Association, said he felt the need to step in after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the funds for Manitoba schools would be instead go to municipal governments, hospitals and universities.

He said school boards have higher costs because of the carbon tax, including for heating school buildings – some of which are a century old – and running bus fleets. He said board trustees have to do what they can to avoid raising school taxes to cover those additional costs.

“This opportunity for us to take some of the revenue that’s been generated through that tax and reinvest it into the schools that are owned by the communities that we represent is important,” he said.

Campbell acknowledged there were some concerns raised about wading into the political hostilities around the carbon tax because the association and school boards are not partisan. But he said in the end it was more important to not let Manitoba schools miss out on funds that can help them reduce carbon tax costs by investing in things like better windows and more efficient furnaces.

In a statement last week, McKenna said the goal was only to help schools.

“We were disappointed that, in Manitoba, the option proposed for schools to get their share of the revenues from our climate plan could not proceed as originally planned,” she said. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The school boards association contacted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on July 24th. Campbell said once talks began, “it was hours and days” before the agreement was developed.

Pallister said Wednesday he didn’t “oppose” the money for schools, but rather that it would be “unprincipled” for the government to take money from carbon tax revenues since Manitoba doesn’t agree with the measure.

“I said that Manitoba is not going to be part of a mirage,” he said.

Manitoba is one of three provinces with a court challenge against the federal government’s decision to impose a carbon price on provinces that didn’t have their own, equivalent carbon pricing system. Courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario have rejected provincial arguments in separate decisions this spring, and both rulings are being appealed.

Manitoba was going to impose its own carbon tax initially, but Pallister suddenly scrapped that plan last October.

The school boards association will receive the funds through an agreement with Ottawa, and then distribute them, likely on a per student basis, to school boards who can show they will use them for the intended purpose.

 

 


Saskatchewan wants Supreme Court to push back carbon tax appeal

The Saskatchewan government is applying to have its Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax pushed back.

An email from the Ministry of Justice says a delay would help Saskatchewan co-ordinate its legal challenge with similar ones coming from other provinces.

The top court was tentatively set to hear the case Dec. 5.

The province says its lawyers were supposed to submit a factum for the appeal by the end of this month, but they have not done so.

Justice Minister Don Morgan hosted a meeting Tuesday in Saskatoon with justice ministers and their legal teams from Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta.

He believes the Supreme Court will want to hear all of the various legal arguments or cases at once instead of one at a time because of their similarity.

During the meeting the group discussed ways to strategize their legal arguments against Ottawa’s carbon levy.

The federal carbon tax was applied to Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba when those provinces did not have of their own.

Ontario lost a challenge in its top court last month.

Alberta, which killed its provincial carbon tax earlier this year that was brought in by the previous NDP government, is to have the federal levy imposed in January. It has also filed a legal challenge.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says his government is trying to catch up with Saskatchewan and Ontario, and it was important for the ministers to compare notes.

He wants the provinces to work together so that the matter is heard by the Supreme Court in a “co-ordinated and thoughtful way.”

“We’re trying to work out (the) strategy to make sure each province can bring forward its strongest case to the Supreme Court,” he says.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey says his government has until August to file its notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.

There are pros and cons about presenting the cases together, he says, but wouldn’t comment on his government’s preference or strategy.

Morgan says he believes Saskatchewan’s court fight is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that it’s worth it.

He says it’s difficult to calculate the exact amount since the province is relying on a mix of in-house and outside lawyers. The price tag includes court filings, travel expenses and other out-of-pocket costs.

“The importance of trying to determine federal and provincial – where the lines are – is important enough that we’re more than willing to spend the money to try and get clear resolution and clear answers to where we need to be,” he says.


Trudeau says Alberta carbon tax fight won’t affect Trans Mountain line decision

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Alberta’s opposition to a carbon tax won’t influence his cabinet’s decision on whether to approve the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“Moves that a province may or may not make will have no bearing on the approval process for important projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion,” Trudeau told reporters Friday.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised to bring in legislation to kill Alberta’s provincial carbon tax as the first order of his new United Conservative government.

Kenney has also promised to fight in court any move by Trudeau’s government to replace the provincial levy with the federal one.

When asked if Alberta will get the federal tax, Trudeau said, “There are many discussions still to have on this.

“What we are going to ensure is that nowhere across the country will it be free to pollute.

“We’d much rather work with the provinces on that. But if some provinces don’t want to act to fight climate change, the federal government will, because it’s too important for Canadians.”

Kenney’s spokesperson, Christine Myatt, responded in a statement: “We look forward to approval of the Trans Mountain expansion project and fully expect the federal government to do everything in its power to see that this pipeline gets built.”

The federal tax has been put in place in Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba _ provinces that have not implemented their own carbon levy.

A week ago, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision that the tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.

The court said establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions does fall under federal jurisdiction.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has promised to appeal the decision up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Ontario is also challenging the federal tax and is waiting for a decision after arguing its case in court last month.

Kenney’s office reiterated its promise to launch a similar challenge.

“We look forward to introducing legislation that will repeal the (Alberta) NDP’s job-killing carbon tax and are prepared to fight any federally-imposed carbon tax all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Myatt.

Kenney campaigned, and won, Alberta’s election last month on a platform that included repealing the provincial carbon tax.

The bill is expected to be introduced shortly after the Alberta legislature begins sitting May 21.

Kenney has promised to replace it with a program of levies on GHG emissions by large industrial producers. The money raised will then be used for carbon pollution technology and research that Kenney says can be shared globally and will have a broader impact on arresting climate change.

He says the current carbon tax on home heating and gasoline at the pumps hurts working families, while having no effect on global GHG emissions.

Alberta’s program offers rebates for low and middle-income families, and Trudeau noted the federal one does too.

“We’ve made sure that the average family is actually better off with the climate action incentive we return to them at tax time than they would be paying as an extra price on pollution,” said Trudeau.

“Fighting climate change while making it affordable for Canadians is at the heart of how we’re going to move forward.”

Trudeau’s cabinet is expected to make a decision as early as next month on whether to approve Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will triple the capacity of oil shipped from Alberta to the west coast.


Industry reacts to proposed fines for Ontario gas stations not posting anti-carbon-tax stickers

Buried in Ontario’s budget bill are fines of up to $10,000 per day for gas station operators who don’t display government-mandated stickers about the price of the carbon tax.

gas-stickerThe budget contains a new piece of legislation called the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act that would require gas stations to display the sticker on each pump. The sticker shows the federal carbon tax adding 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gas now, rising to 11 cents a litre in 2022.

The legislation lets the government send inspectors to see if gas stations are properly displaying the stickers and sets out penalties for non-compliance.

Individuals could be fined up to $500 each day, or up to $1,000 a day for subsequent offences. Corporations could be fined up to $5,000 a day, or up to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences.

Obstructing an inspector would carry a fine of at least $500 and up to $10,000.

“This is a new low, even for (Premier) Doug Ford,” NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said in a statement. “It’s bad enough that he’s wasting public money on partisan promotion, but now he’s threatening private business owners with massive fines for failing to post [Progressive] Conservative Party advertisement.”

Similar critiques came from federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, who denounced the fines as “ridiculous.”

“Not only is this a violation of freedom of speech, it will cost small business owners across the province who don’t want to take part in this government propaganda campaign,” McKenna said in a statement.

“This should be denounced by all political parties as a new low for our political discourse.”

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford is wasting tax dollars and abusing legal tools to bolster his anti-carbon tax campaign.

“This has nothing to do with transparency and everything to do with helping his federal cousins win the election,” Schreiner said in a statement.

‘We cannot accept this carbon tax’

The provincial Tories are slamming the federal carbon tax at every turn, and while Ford has said he is staying out of the upcoming federal election, he directly linked the two Friday in a speech to the Ontario General Contractors Association.

“When you go to the ballot box think of your future,” he said. “Think of the country’s future. Think of your children’s future, because we cannot accept this carbon tax.”

In response, the Ontario Convenience Stores Association said on Twitter: “Independent family run gas stations are more then happy to install the carbon tax sticker on all our pumps supporting Ford Nation in educating customers of the carbon tax download on all Ontarians. Let us know how to help?”

Energy Minister Greg Rickford’s director of communications said the stickers are about transparency.

But critics note that the stickers don’t mention carbon tax rebates.

The carbon tax is expected cost to a typical household $258 this year and $648 by 2022.
With files from Michelle Warren.