Saskatchewan’s justice minister says carbon case likely headed to Supreme Court

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WATCH: Saskatchewan's Attorney General Don Morgan said he has no doubt the constitutional challenge against Ottawa's imposition of carbon tax will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada. David Baxter has more – Feb 12, 2019

Saskatchewan’s attorney general says he has no doubt the constitutional challenge against Ottawa’s imposition of carbon tax will end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Don Morgan says his government will respect the ruling from the provincial Appeal Court, which will hear two days of arguments starting Wednesday.

But he says other provinces will look carefully at what is decided and could take the matter further.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan, Ottawa carbon tax case ‘monumental’ for Constitution: expert

Morgan says he agrees climate change is a national concern, but believes Ottawa should be working to find other ways to mitigate emissions.

The Saskatchewan Party government argues a federally imposed carbon tax is unconstitutional because it will not apply evenly across all of the provinces.

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“It’s not right, it’s not constitutional to have a tax rate different from province to province. I think most people from a logical point of view understand that and accept that,” Morgan said.

Ottawa says it has the authority under the Constitution to put a price on pollution because climate change is a national concern.

“I do believe the legal basis upon which the government of Canada has advanced its position is a sound and solid basis,” Regina Wascana MP Ralph Goodale said. “We expected to be successful in advancing that basis – not in a kind of triumphant political way – but because it’s good public policy and it will serve the best interest of the country, including the best interest of Saskatchewan.”

Watch below: Some videos from Global News’ coverage of carbon taxes.

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As for whether this case may go before the Supreme Court of Canada, Goodale said he did not want to speculate on the court’s decision, but the federal government will be carefully going over the ruling once it is delivered.

A grand total of 16 intervenors will be speaking on behalf of the two sides. Intervenors supporting the Saskatchewan side include SaskPower, SaskEnergy, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

APAS’ lawyer Khurrum Awan, a partner with Miller Thompson LLP, said their position is that Saskatchewan is in the best position to draft local climate policy. This is because that policy would have a direct impact on the local economy, an area of provincial jurisdiction.

“It’s not open to Canada to say well we prefer some other plan, and some plan that we believe is more effective and therefore we can come in and intrude on provincial jurisdiction, and implement a plan for the provinces,” he said.

Under the Constitution, jurisdiction over the environment is shared between the federal and provincial level. Awan believes this will be the biggest issue the Appeal Court justices will need to deal with.

Intervenors supporting the government side include the Assembly of First Nations, David Suzuki Foundation and a coalition of groups under the Climate Justice et al banner. This includes Climate Justice Saskatoon.

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In addition to arguing that climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are a matter of national concern, Climate Justice Saskatoon’s Mark Bigland-Pritchard said they will be advocating that a carbon tax is a useful tool in fighting climate change.

“It’s not the only measure that we need in order to address the climate crisis, but it’s very effective,” Bigland-Pritchard said. “To address the climate crisis without this is kind of like trying to build a house without a hammer. It can be done, but why would you do it?”

With files from David Baxter

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