The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday has given the federal government the constitutional green light to impose a carbon price on the provinces.
The decision was the culmination of years of disputes between some provinces and the federal government over the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA).
The law, which was introduced in 2018, laid out a national framework for pricing carbon – one that applies to everyday consumers as well as industrial emitters.
In a split decision, the judges on the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) found that climate change poses a real, serious threat to the world — one that’s serious enough to allow the federal government to step on some provincial toes.
The act details a minimum set of standards for pricing carbon, leaving provinces free to establish their policies beyond that initial threshold.
However, if those provincial policies don’t meet the standards set out in the federal law, Ottawa slaps its federal carbon tax on the province.
Many provinces were upset by the prospect of the federal government imposing the measure, arguing that such a move would affect their province’s jurisdiction.
That’s exactly the issue that Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan had front of minds as they brought the question of constitutionality before their appeal courts.
The basis for this final decision was the government’s invocation of the peace, order and good government clause (POGG) of the Constitution.
POGG gives the federal government room to bring about legislation that might step on the provinces’ jurisdictional toes.
The federal government gets that wiggle room if it can prove the issue at hand inherently affects the whole country – but isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner made a rare decision on Thursday, arguing the issue is of enough concern for the nation and the government may use the POGG (peace, order, and good government) terms.
The six judges completely supported the decision, with one partial dissent and two entirely in disagreement with the majority.
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