Sask. NDP leader presses for legal costs in 'pointless' fight on carbon pricing

Saskatchewan’s two new political leaders traded jabs over the carbon tax on Wednesday in the legislature, with NDP leader Ryan Meili pressing to find out more on the costs of fighting a federally-imposed price on carbon.

Premier Scott Moe accuses NDP of giving in to carbon tax

NDP leader Ryan Meili is asking the Sask. Party government if it has sought legal advice on fighting a federally-imposed price on carbon and what the advice has been. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Saskatchewan's two new political leaders traded jabs over the carbon tax on Wednesday in the legislature, with NDP leader Ryan Meili pressing to find out more on the costs of fighting a federally-imposed price on carbon.   

The NDP had asked the Saskatchewan Party government about whether it had sought legal counsel in its fight against carbon pricing and, if so, what that legal advice had suggested. Meili charged the government was stubbornly leading a "futile" endeavour.

"The people of Saskatchewan deserve to know: Is this government about to embark on a costly crusade, a pointless crusade?" he asked during question period. 

In response to questions about legal advice on carbon pricing, Premier Scott Moe described the NDP stance as hurtful to the province.  

"What's shocking is that the members opposite are already waving a white flag, already asking Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau to tax the industry and the families in the province of Saskatchewan," he said.

On so many issues, we see this government outsmarted by Trudeau, not successful in their advocacy.- Ryan Meili, Sask. NDP leader

Moe challenged Meili to voice support for the Trans Mountain pipeline that would improve Saskatchewan's economy, instead of a carbon tax.

In response, Meili said he would welcome seeing the Saskatchewan government be an effective advocate with the federal government, whether it was in getting a pipeline built or addressing grain backlogs.

"On so many issues, we see this government outsmarted by Trudeau, not successful in their advocacy," Meili responded, to a chorus of jeers and heckling from the members of the Sask. Party caucus.

Meili noted Manitoba had paid $40,000 to get legal advice on fighting the federal government's imposition of a $10-per-tonne carbon price, a price targeted to rise to $50 by 2022.

Premier Brian Pallister has said the legal advice suggested that if Manitoba said 'no' to carbon pricing, it would end up with the tax regardless, and if it fought the tax in court, it would lose.

Lone holdout on carbon pricing

Manitoba has now agreed to sign the Pan Canadian Framework on Climate Change in February, making Saskatchewan the lone holdout in the country not to commit to the federal climate change plan.

Minister of the Environment Dustin Duncan said the province is still working on its plan to reduce emissions.

He felt the province had a "very strong argument" to put forward before the federal government on its own plan, rather than having a carbon price imposed on Saskatchewan.

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan says Saskatchewan will be putting forward a "very strong" plan before the federal government on how it will be reducing emissions. (CBC)

Part of the plan would look at reducing methane and coal-fired electrical generation, adding renewable energy sources, and implementing performance standards for industry, he said.

"It doesn't seem at this point like this federal government is backing down from their position and so we'll have to decide whether we're going to further this action through the court," he said, noting that different lawyers may have varying opinions on the success of a potential court challenge.