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Bill Kelly: Day one of Ford’s carbon tax legal challenge didn’t go well

Click to play video 'Hearing begins on Ontario challenge to federal carbon tax' Hearing begins on Ontario challenge to federal carbon tax
Federal Environment Minster Catherine McKenna defends the federal carbon tax as Ontario takes it to court – Apr 15, 2019

If day one of the Ford government’s challenge to the federal carbon tax is any indication, it could be a rough ride for the Ontario premier and his anti-carbon tax advocates.

Monday, lawyers representing the Ford government presented their case and a five-judge panel systematically picked holes in their arguments.

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The Ford government claims that the tax will drive up prices on gas and heating fuel and related costs for Ontario residents; that’s been one of the main talking points that Ford has used often.

But, the court questioned that assertion.

The judges asked, how is it a burden if 90 per cent of the money goes back to the same people who paid it and the remainder funds infrastructure projects?

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The judicial panel also acknowledged that the carbon tax wouldn’t even be an issue in Ontario had the Ford government not scrapped the cap and trade program that was instituted by the previous government.

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To their credit, and much to the chagrin of the climate change deniers, Ontario government lawyers agreed that climate change is real and greenhouse gases do contribute to the problem.

But, they probably hurt their cause when they postulated that there was no national systemic risk caused by climate change and greenhouse gases.

That argument adds credence to the feeling held by many that Ford’s court challenge is motivated more by his disdain for this federal government than it is for concern for the environment.

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David Estrin, a highly respected environmental law specialist at Osgoode Hall Law School, seems to concur.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Estrin says that Ford is using the judicial panel as a political gambit. “He’s done a complete flip flop since he launched the challenge. It’s Ford that is doing this for purely nonsensical, illogical reasons that don’t make any economic sense.”

It would seem that the majority of Ontario taxpayers feel the same way.

Canadians for Clean Prosperity, an environmental lobby group, which is headed by former Stephen Harper staffer Mark Cameron, released a poll Monday showing Ford’s court challenge has the support of only 27 per cent of the 1,025 residents polled and only about 20 per cent support the Ford government’s planned ad campaign to support the court challenge. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.

Ford has earmarked $30 million of taxpayer’s money for his politically driven — and apparently unpopular — court challenge.

It was only day one of the hearing, but evaluating the government’s arguments, Ontario taxpayers may well question if that $30 million is money well spent.

Bill Kelly is the host of the Bill Kelly Show on Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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