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Ontario to back Saskatchewan court reference on federal carbon tax plan

Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that Ontario will intervene in support of Saskatchewan’s court reference case, challenging the federal government’s right to impose a carbon tax on provinces that don’t comply with its climate change plan.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and his Ontario counterpart on Wednesday evening after arriving in Saint Andrews, N.B., for two days of Council of the Federation talks.

Moe has been trying to find allies in his fight against Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

The federal government has threatened to impose a carbon tax on any province that does not develop an effective carbon emissions reduction plan, in order to keep its international climate change commitments. Saskatchewan has launched a reference case at its Court of Appeal, questioning the federal government’s jurisdiction to do that.

Ford said both premiers were on “the exact same page,” vowing to “use every tool at our disposal” and trying to rally support among their colleagues against carbon taxes.

Moe called carbon taxes “an ineffective policy that simply does not reduce emissions,” saying it moves jobs and opportunities to other parts of the world instead. Ottawa’s plan fails to recognize the diversity of the Canadian economy, he said.

“We have two provinces in compliance, we have two provinces in court and we have the rest of the country not meeting the federal carbon tax backstop,” Moe said.

It’s not clear which two provinces Moe is referring to as being in compliance. The deadline for provinces to have their plans in place is in September. B.C. already has a carbon tax, and Alberta later followed suit.

Quebec and Ontario chose a different way to reduce carbon emissions: participating in a “cap and trade” carbon market where heavy polluters must purchase credits, offering a financial incentive to use clean technology.

Under Ford’s leadership, Ontario will pull out of this carbon market.

Manitoba was reluctant to sign on to the federal government’s plan until recently. It sought a legal opinion on the federal government’s jurisdiction, but did not go as far as Saskatchewan has in initiating a court reference.

Manitoba’s legal opinion said the federal government has the jurisdictional authority to impose a carbon tax, but also suggested that if a province had an alternative plan that would accomplish the same policy goal, it could probably succeed in arguing Ottawa does not have the right to interfere with its preferred mechanism to reduce carbon emissions.

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