British Columbia

B.C. municipalities join federal government's side in carbon tax court fight

At issue is whether the federal government can impose a carbon tax on provinces that have chosen not to implement one. The province of Saskatchewan lost its initial lawsuit against the tax in June but has appealed. 

Supreme Court scheduled to hear Saskatchewan's argument against the tax in March 2020

Saskatchewan's fight against the federal carbon tax will be heard at the Supreme Court of Canada in March. At issue is whether the federal government can impose a carbon tax on provinces that have chosen not to implement one (Dan Riedlhuber/Reuters)

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted intervener status to six B.C. municipalities in the federal government's carbon pricing court case.

Vancouver, Victoria, Richmond, Squamish, Nelson and Rossland have joined the federal government's side in a court case expected to be heard by the Supreme Court in March 2020.

At issue is whether the federal government can impose a carbon tax on provinces that have chosen not to implement one. The province of Saskatchewan lost its initial lawsuit against the tax in June but has appealed

"A national price on pollution is the single most effective way to take action against the climate crisis," said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a statement. 

The Saskatchewan government will be arguing the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa next spring. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore, who oversees a municipality of approximately 4,000 people, said "this is an issue that impacts all Canadians, whether we live in large urban centres of small rural communities."

The province of B.C. had intervener status when Saskatchewan and Ontario first took the tax to court this year. 

University of Victoria political scientist Michael Prince said it's possible the government might create more flexibility for the provinces opposed to the carbon tax before the court case goes ahead.

"We'll have to see ... if there's any compromising for a middle ground," he said. 

Over two dozen other groups have also joined the court case as intervenors, including the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the the David Suzuki Foundation.

B.C. communities take an active approach

Over the last two years, many municipalities in British Columbia have expanded their work on environmental policy, from declaring climate emergencies to enacting bans on single-use items

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said the idea for some municipalities to intervene came from the Climate Caucus, a group of more than 200 locally elected officials from across Canada that advocates for local policies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Around half of its members are from B.C., and its chair is Nelson Coun. Rik Logtenberg.

"I believe that someone from the federal government reached out to [Logtenberg] and said 'is this something that would be of interest and is there anyone you can rally?' And then we took it from there," said Helps.

According to Helps, the lawyers representing the municipalities are taking the case on for free, with additional legal costs requiring around $2,000 per municipalitiy. 

Helps also said they would be asking for motions from local governments across the country to support their case. 

"Local governments are highly impacted by climate change, particularly adaptation costs: flooding and forest fires and all of those other things," she said.

"So we want to strongly support the federal government's case."

With files from Kathryn Marlow

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now