Saskatchewan premier says province will fight carbon tax in court

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said on Wednesday the province will go to court over the federal government's carbon tax.

Legal challenge over the federal government's carbon tax will come in next few weeks, says Scott Moe

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has committed to fighting the imposition of a carbon tax on the province through legal means, saying the province will file a reference case with the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in the coming weeks. (CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Wednesday that the province will go to court over the federal government's carbon tax.

Moe told reporters that in the coming weeks, the province will file a case against the federal government with the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal over carbon pricing.

"The reason we'll be doing that is a carbon tax just simply does not work," he said.

The province's reference case would establish whether or not the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a carbon tax, he said, noting other provinces will be watching the case closely. 

"I think it's also important for us to recognize … that Saskatchewan is making every effort into reducing its emissions," said Moe.

The Saskatchewan government has a plan in place to reduce emissions from electrical generation and the energy industry, while investments in agricultural operations could see that traditional source of emissions transform into an "great and unrecognized carbon sink," he said.  

Climate change about bigger picture: Moe

But Moe said the fight against climate change goes beyond the province's borders.

"If we want to address what is a global challenge … in climate change, we need to start talking about carbon emissions on a global basis."

Canada currently imports oil from foreign countries that do not have carbon pricing, with emissions that exceed those of provinces like Saskatchewan, he said, and the focus of the federal government should be pushing for pipelines and getting oil to tidewater. 

Carbon pricing included in 556-page bill

Moe attacked the federal government's decision to put carbon pricing into its budget implementation bill, a bill tabled on Feb. 27 that spanned 556 pages.

"They wouldn't let this bill stand on its own, they want to lump it in with a budget bill so that they will be able to pass it with other budgetary measures," he said.

"If they were confident in their position, their position on infringing on provincial jurisdiction, they would let the bill stand on its own."

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna has refused to allow Saskatchewan to opt out of the federal carbon pricing plan. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

In response to Moe's comments, the press secretary to Canada's environment minister said that carbon pricing "was clearly indicated in Budget 2018," and its introduction should not come as a surprise to anyone. 

"Pricing carbon pollution is a key part of any serious plan to address climate change," wrote Caroline Thériault, adding that carbon pricing would drive innovation in the country.

"We believe provinces and territories are best placed to design a pricing system that works for them, as long as it meets the national standard."

Revenues from carbon pricing are meant to stay within the provinces, while provinces with their own plans get to decide how to use the revenue, with no strings attached.

When asked if he was concerned about the possibility the federal government would impose carbon pricing and dictate how the revenue was distributed, Moe said the government is "very confident" in its case and the legal advice it has received on fighting the carbon tax.

Saskatchewan is the only province that has refused to join the federal climate change plan. If that holdout continues, the province may also forgo its share of money — $62.05 million available over five years — from Ottawa's $1.4-billion Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, which typically helps finance clean energy programs.