Feds could tell you when to drive if carbon price law stands, court told

Ontario’s constitutional challenge against the federal government gets underway

The federal government will end up with the power to regulate almost every facet of life — such as when you can drive or where you can live — if its law aimed at curbing harmful greenhouse gas emissions is allowed to stand, Ontario’s top court heard Monday.

Ottawa’s climate-change law is so broad, a lawyer for the province told the start of a four-day Appeal Court hearing, that it would give the federal government powers that would be destabilizing to Canada in the name of curbing the cumulative effects of global-warming emissions.

READ MORE: B.C. carbon tax up April 1, other provinces begin to catch up

“They could regulate where you live. How often you drive your car,” Josh Hunter told the five-justice panel. “It would unbalance the federation.”

In his submissions, Hunter was categorical that Ontario’s constitutional challenge to the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was not intended to be a debate on the realities or dangers of global warming. What’s at stake, he said, is which level of government has the power to deal with the problem.

“Which measure is the best measure — the most efficient measure — is best left for legislatures to decide,” Hunter said. “Which legislature? That’s what we’re here to decide.”

The federal government law that kicked in on April 1 imposed a charge on gasoline and other fossil fuels as well as on industrial polluters. The law applies only in those provinces that have no carbon-pricing regime of their own that meets national standards — Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

The Liberal government, which is due to make its submissions on Tuesday, insists its law is an appropriate response to the nationally important issue of climate change. It maintains the legislation was designed to “fill in the gaps” where provincial measures aren’t up to snuff. The aim, the government says, is to cajole people into changing their behaviour.

The federal law, Hunter also said, puts a “tax” on ordinary people every time they drive to work or heat their homes, which he said was too much of a burden.

As the justices pointed out, Ottawa is promising to return the money it collects to people in the affected provinces to offset the charge.

Hunter, however, said the rebates — via the federal climate action incentive — flow to everyone in the impacted province regardless of whether they drive at all, for example.

“It’s not just that you get back what you give,” he said.

Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford insists Ontario can curb greenhouse gas emissions on its own and has already taken significant steps to do so.

Those steps, Hunter told the court, include shutting down coal-fired power plants — a measure in fact taken by the previous Liberal government — which has sharply reduced the province’s harmful emissions.

“Ontario is further ahead than all the other provinces,” Hunter said. “(But) none of those (steps) count towards determining whether Ontario has a stringent plan.”

In addition, he said, the province is developing a “made-in-Ontario environmental plan” that is still under consideration.

Fourteen interveners, including provinces such as Saskatchewan and B.C., Alberta Conservatives, Indigenous organizations who point out they are acutely vulnerable to global warming, as well as business and environmental groups, will get their say over the course of the hearing.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Caribou debate in Revelstoke makes international headlines

How much are we expected to sacrifice to save a dying species?

Dawn Low Interim CAO for Revelstoke for six months

She will be in the position until it is filled, it is not currently advertised

LETTER: Revelstoke Paddlesport Association opposed to gravel pit near Jordan River

City council has also expressed opposition to the gravel pit

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Firefighters have doused a Peachland house fire

Fire crews are still on scene investigating the cause of the BBQ which made its way to the home

False report of dead body leads police to sex dolls at Manning Park

Princeton RCMP breathed a sigh of relief, momentarily, when they discovered a… Continue reading

Ironman returns to Okanagan after seven-year absence

Subaru Ironman Canada is coming back to Penticton in 2020

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Special memorial service to say goodbye to murdered Kelowna teen

A memorial service and celebratio of life was held Tuesday for murdered teen Elijah-Iain Beauregard

Okanagan College campus flies Syilx flag

The Okanagan Nation Alliance flag was raised at a ceremony at Vernon campus on July 16

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Most Read