Call Me a Carbon Polluter? See You in Court.

Program Statement October 23, 2018:Canada’s plan ensures that polluters pay for their carbon emissions in every province

Justin Trudeau justified the federal carbon tax this way:

“The core of putting a price on pollution is exactly that. Making sure that pollution is no longer free. You’re making something you don’t want more expensive. We don’t want pollution, so we’re putting a price on it.”

Brian Lilly writes at Canoe Carbon tax court battle, advantage Ontario. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Last week the Ontario and federal governments battled it out in court on the carbon tax and it was the tale of two very different stories.

The opening arguments laid out by lawyers representing the opposing sides showed where they wanted to put their emphasis.

The lawyer for the Government of Ontario argued that the law was unconstitutional while the lawyer for the Government of Canada argued climate change was real, urgent and needed action taken.

One was a legal argument, the other emotional.

Given that judges are human, either could carry the day and anyone saying they know which side will win is fooling you.

Decades of following court cases have taught me that judges are unpredictable.

When he opened his arguments, Josh Hunter, deputy director for the constitutional law branch for Ontario, argued that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act violated federalism and the constitution.

Hunter was clear to say the Ontario government was not challenging whether climate change was real or action needed to be taken, they were challenging how the federal government was attempting to reach their goals.

“What this reference is about is whether Parliament can impose its solution to the problem on the provinces,” Hunter said. “Or whether in a federal country, the provinces have the flexibility under the constitution to choose what best meets their local circumstances as they work together to combat climate change.”

The argument from Ontario is pretty simple and rooted in legal concepts. Whether the judges buy those legal concepts remains to be seen, though I think they should.

The federal act imposing a carbon tax on some provinces and not others is a violation of our federal system, as well as an attempt by the federal government to encroach on provincial jurisdiction and, effectively, a violation of the “no taxation without representation” concept that has been part of our system dating back to Magna Carta.

Did you know the act setting up this system grants to cabinet and cabinet alone the ability to set the rate of the carbon tax and to adjust it as they see fit without passing another vote in Parliament?

Whatever you think of the carbon tax or climate change, that should be enough to have this act and the tax that goes with it declared unconstitutional.

For their part the feds admitted this act does infringe on provincial jurisdiction but then said that it does so minimally and therefore should be allowed.

Besides, they argued, against no one in the room, climate change is real!

“We know that climate change is an urgent threat to humanity,” said federal lawyer Sharlene Telles-Langdon.

“The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere causes global warming which is causing climate change and the associated national and international risks to human health and well-being.”

I’m not saying that Telles-Langdon, the general counsel for Justice Canada, didn’t argue constitutional reasons for upholding the law, but she put the urgency of climate change front and centre at every turn.

That is a policy discussion and not a constitutional one, which tells me that even the feds think they have a weak argument on the constitution and want to win on emotion.

What didn’t help the federal argument was the release of the annual report from the federal government on greenhouse gas emissions by the province.

It showed Ontario had reduced GHG emissions by 22% since 2005. Without a carbon tax Ontario is most of the way to meeting its part of Canada’s target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

British Columbia, the province that has had a carbon tax since 2008 and we are told is the model all should follow, is only down 1.5% since 2005.

As a whole Canada is up by 2%.

The question before the court is not one of the impact of climate change or the best way for governments to combat it — those are policy discussions.

The question before the court is one of constitutionality and on that front Justin Trudeau and his Liberals have failed.

Let’s hope the courts are guided by law and the constitution and not emotion or political inclination.

Footnote:

Ross McKitrick explains that economists do favor carbon taxes over cap-and-trade schemes, but on the condition that the tax replaces other fees, taxes and regulations intended to reduce emissions. That condition is never respected by Canada and other nations enacting such. McKitrick writes at Fraser Institute: Trudeau government carbon-pricing plan not in line with Nobel Prize-winning analysis

Canada has a patchwork of highly inefficient regulations with marginal compliance costs, in many cases well in excess of the conventional estimates of the benefits of greenhouse gas emission reductions. But rather than repealing the inefficient regulations and replacing them with a carbon tax, the federal plan involves adding even more regulations to the mix—then sticking a carbon tax on top. This looks nothing like what economists have recommended.

In fact the economics literature provides no evidence this would be an efficient approach, and some evidence it would be worse than regulations alone.

See also:  CO2 ≠ Pollutant

 

 

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6 comments

  1. Bob Greene · April 21

    Did I miss a discussion on how this tax was going to reduce global temperature and save the planet? And what decrease in global temperature?

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · April 21

      There is this assessment from leftists who support taxing CO2:
      What would be the combined effect of the federal carbon tax in conjunction with the provincial plans? Even under the most optimistic forecasts, Canada will not even come close to achieving the emission reduction targets that Trudeau committed the country to when he signed the Paris Agreement in 2015—targets that were already too low to keep the global temperature increase beyond preindustrial levels below 2 degrees Celsius, as hoped by climate scientists. The Globe and Mail reports:

      By one federal estimate, the combined federal and provincial carbon-pricing plans would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 60 million tonnes in 2020, equivalent to 8.3 per cent of the country’s emissions in 2015. But even with those reductions, plus the phaseout of coal-generated power and other energy-efficiency measures, Canada would still fall short of its total promised emission cuts for 2030 by about 79 million tonnes, Environment and Climate Change Canada said last December. Getting all the way to compliance with the 2015 Paris climate-change accord will require faster adoption of electric vehicles and public-transit improvements, the ministry said.
      Summary: This tax is not destructive enough.

      Like

      • Bob Greene · April 21

        In other words, sound and fury signifying nothing.

        Like

  2. Mark Stewart · April 22

    All this BULL $hit carbon TAX to do what??? Reduce the amount of Canadians world pollution number from 1.6% to 1.599999999%? Is all this TAX & spending on incentives going to change anything but our bank accounts? No I believe it’s all just a grand plan to control more money! Nothing more. If activists were really concerned they would be protesting in China, India or USA where major pollution numbers are happening.

    Like

    • manicbeancounter · April 24

      This is a crucial point missed by the proponents of climate mitigation. If there is a problem with CO2 emissions then this problem can only be constrained by a global reduction in those emissions. The marginal impact of Canada’s proposed carbon tax is very small in a global context.
      What should also be clear is that climate mitigation is also costly. Both the 2006 Stern Review and Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus recognize this fact. Policy justification relies on minimizing the sum of policy costs and residual future costs of climate change. As most countries are not taking action to reduce emissions and most of the rest are doing very little, the impact of imposing policy will be of no net benefit to the nations imposing that policy even if the IPCC / Stern / Nordhaus are correct on dangerous climate change.

      https://manicbeancounter.com/2019/03/15/nobel-laureate-william-nordhaus-demonstrates-that-climate-mitigation-will-make-a-nation-worse-off/

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  3. manicbeancounter · April 24

    Canada’s Changing Climate Report was published last month. One headline statement was that Canada has warmed at twice the global rate.
    But is this a bad thing or a good thing? A bad thing would be if the climate became more extreme.
    Canada as a whole has warmed much faster in the Winter than in the Summer. The extreme difference between average winter and summer temperatures has moderated.
    Looking at a list of the highest temperatures recorded in Canada, the most recent, in 1962, is bottom of the list.
    A similar list of the lowest temperatures recorded in Canada, there are three this century. The coldest was −49.8 °C on January 11, 2018. This is 13 °C warmer than the coldest ever recorded back in 1947.
    In other words. the rise in average temperatures seems to be making the climate less extreme.
    https://manicbeancounter.com/2019/04/19/warming-in-canada-is-making-temperatures-less-extreme/

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