Politics

Federal government opposing Alberta opposition’s attempt to join legal fight against carbon tax

EDMONTON — The federal government is arguing that Alberta’s
opposition United Conservative Party should not be allowed to
join the government of Saskatchewan in its legal challenge
against the imposition of a carbon tax.

“Their interest in this reference is both political and
speculative,” Department of Justice lawyers wrote in court
documents filed Wednesday. “Their intervention will not assist
the Court in dealing with the legal issues.”

As well as arguing against the UCP’s intervention, the federal
government took issue with a handful of other would-be
interveners. It argued against the admissibility of some
portions of submissions from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation
and the Assembly of First Nations, and that the Agricultural
Producers Association of Saskatchewan should be refused status
unless its arguments were “relevant to the legal issues.”

But it has no objection to applications to intervene from eight
other organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the
Canada Ecofiscal Commission and the Athabasca Chipewyan First
Nation, all expected to support the federal position. The
federal government also did not challenge applications from the
Saskatchewan Power Corporation and SaskEnergy Inc., both
Saskatchewan Crown corporations seeking to intervene in support
of the province.

“It’s telling that the Trudeau government is happy with
foreign-funded groups … fighting for a carbon tax in Canadian
courts, but not the Official Opposition in Alberta that
represents a significant number of Albertans,” said UCP leader
Jason Kenney in a statement.

In an emailed statement, Caroline Thériault, a
spokeswoman with Environment Canada, said the government’s
position was based upon the “legal rules for intervener
application in reference cases.” 

“It’s disappointing to see Conservative
politicians across the country using taxpayer money and
resources to oppose serious action on climate change,” she
wrote. 

Saskatchewan contends it is not constitutional for Ottawa to
impose a carbon tax on provinces and territories that don’t
implement carbon-pricing programs of their own, or that adopt
programs the federal government considers inadequate. The
Saskatchewan Court of Appeal will hear its case in February
2019. The UCP filed documents with the court last week claiming
the party had a unique legal argument that it should get to
present as an intervener.

In seeking leave to intervene — interveners raise issues to
help courts decide cases, though they’re not direct parties to
the court case — lawyers for the UCP argued that to allow the
carbon tax would “upset the balance of federalism and the
separation of powers between the federal and provincial
governments in a manner that is detrimental to provincial
efforts to develop policy solutions that are particular and
unique to the individual provinces.”

The provinces and territories where the federal carbon tax
looks likely to apply beginning in 2019 include Ontario,
Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Yukon and Nunavut.
Alberta has a carbon tax at present, put in place by Premier
Rachel Notley’s NDP government, but the UCP — which could take
over after next spring’s election — has vowed to cancel it and
fight the federal government tooth and nail should it impose
one on Alberta.

Notley’s government, however, pulled out of the federal carbon
plan on Aug. 31 over delays to the Trans Mountain pipeline
expansion; the federal tax would likely have replaced the
provincial one in 2021. Asked for comment Wednesday on the
federal government’s filing, the Alberta government did not
respond directly, instead offering a statement that
“there is no national climate plan without
Alberta.”

UCP
leader Jason Kenney
Greg
Southam/Postmedia

The federal government’s filing also declares its opposition to
the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s request to file affidavit
evidence. “It is inadmissible opinion evidence from an affiant
that has not established any special expertise in general
economics or the economics of carbon pricing,” the Department
of Justice argued. It does not, however, oppose more
generally the CTF’s application to intervene.

Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the CTF, said “we’re not
surprised” that an intervener opposing one side would get
pushback.

“It also suggests that they’re aware that we’ve been fairly
effective politically fighting their carbon tax and they simply
want to throw up as many roadblocks as they can to help with
the legal fight,” Wudrick said Wednesday.

Ottawa opposes submissions from the Agricultural Producers
Association of Saskatchewan because, it said, they don’t
address the legal questions. The association’s president, Todd
Lewis, said they wanted to raise issues about agriculture being
affected by the carbon tax. “It’s just a puzzling situation,
why they would not even want us in the room.”

The federal government filing also took issue with some
submissions from the Assembly of First Nations, saying they do
not address the constitutional issues before the court.

The court will hear the applications to intervene on Dec. 12.

• Email: tdawson@postmedia.com |
Twitter: tylerrdawson

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