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

Repen: FOI data proves Telkwans being ripped off by ICBC

Former Telkwa mayor received a response from ICBC and says the results don’t look good for residents

Fires still burning near Telegraph Creek

BC Wildfire Service assures residents of a proactive plan heading into wildfire season

Northwest entrepreneurs pitch their plans for cash prizes

ThriveNorth announces 12 finalists in this year’s business challenge

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Most Read