Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said he has asked his Justice Ministry to look at legal options the province might have regarding the federal government’s intention to impose a carbon tax.
“Say Saskatchewan, and one or two other provinces simply say we’re not doing this. How do they constitutionally devise a tax that’s only for two or three provinces?” Wall said.
“Maybe they can, but I think there’s constitutional issues there.”
Wall said a part of the constitutional challenge the Saskatchewan Justice Ministry will be looking into is whether one level of government can tax another, alluding to SaskPower and SaskEnergy.
Both Crown corporations said earlier this week that they are preparing for increased operating costs due to the federal carbon pricing plan.
Wall says it’s not clear how Ottawa’s plan will take affect if Saskatchewan or other provinces say they’re not implementing a price on carbon.
The federal plan calls for a $10-per-tonne tax starting in 2018 and increasing to $50 per tonne by 2022.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said carbon pricing will be imposed on provinces that don’t match the tax or implement a cap-and-trade system on emissions.
Wall said that kind of significant tax would impact the agriculture, mining and oil and gas industries. It would also mean fewer jobs or people making less money.
“If you’re an oil worker watching oil climb back up to $50, you know that Crescent Point and others have a choice. They can drill in North Dakota, obviously the Bakken is in North Dakota as well,” Wall said.
Wall added farmers, specifically lentil growers, would face similar competition from their American counterparts with carbon priced at $50 per tonne.
The premier reiterated points he’s made previously in carbon tax talks, including a push for more technological innovation like the $1.3 billion the province has invested into the Boundary Dam Carbon Capture and Storage Project.
Wall also repeated his assertion that a carbon tax in Canada won’t do much to lower global emissions, saying we contribute 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gases.
The federal government has maintained that any money collected through a carbon tax would stay in the province. However, Wall doesn’t see this as a way to work toward revenue neutrality.
“I think it’s spacious to just assume there’d be the same number of people working in Saskatchewan afterwards, and you can reduce their income tax and it’s all neutral,” Wall said.
The premier also says the federal government has not offered an economic assessment to show the impact on jobs or Canadian household costs.
With files from The Canadian Press