Doug Ford might not go through with his carbon tax court challenge after all

Ontario's premier says his government will decide after the federal election whether it will continue its court challenge of the carbon tax.

Issue will be decided at the ballot box, not in court, Ontario premier says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford raised the possibility Friday that he might abandon the province's legal case against the carbon tax. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Premier Doug Ford says the fate of Ontario's carbon tax court challenge will be decided after the federal election, raising the possibility that his government could end up abandoning the case. 

When asked Friday what he would do if federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer loses the election and a pro-carbon tax party — such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals — wins, the premier said he would have to reassess Ontario's position. 

"We'll sit down and consult with the attorney general ... We'll be consulting with the cabinet and then we'll move forward from there," he said 

Voters, Ford said, would have the ultimate say. 

"This carbon tax, it's not going to be the courts that are going to decide. The people are going to decide when the election is held," he said. "Once the people decide, I believe in democracy, I respect democracy, we move on. The people will have the opportunity, not the courts."

Lost case in Ontario's top court

Ford's Progressive Conservative government lost its case against the federal carbon price at the province's top court in June and said it would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ford's spokeswoman Ivana Yelich said Friday the government believes the carbon tax is a "cash grab under the guise of environmental policy" and will do everything it can to fight it. 

Other provinces, including Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, are also challenging the carbon price in court. 

If Premier Ford wants to stop wasting our tax money ... he should cut his losses and do it now.— Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada

A spokesman for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Friday that the province's legal action will continue, regardless of the outcome of the Oct, 21 election. 

"Our government believes that the federal election provides a significant opportunity for voters in Saskatchewan and across Canada to soundly reject the harmful and ineffective federal carbon tax," Jim Billington said in a statement.

"However, we recognize that an important question of jurisdictional authority will continue to exist no matter which federal party is elected come October." 

'Political theatre'

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the Ford government's  lawsuit has always been "political theatre."

"What's really causing the premier to consider backing down is people's overwhelming desire for climate leadership," he said in a statement. "No one wants a premier who will waste tax dollars sabotaging solutions when the local and global impacts of climate change are becoming more and more dire."

Greenpeace Canada said Ford should drop the case immediately. 

"If Premier Ford wants to stop wasting our tax money on efforts to stop other governments from filling the hole he has created in Canada's response to the climate crisis, then he should cut his losses and do it now," said the group's senior energy strategist, Keith Stewart. 

The Ontario government has pledged to spend approximately $30 million fighting the federal carbon price in court.

It's also using some of those funds to wage a public relations battle against the federal government that includes  making gas station owners stick anti-carbon-tax stickers on pumps across the province by the end of next week. 

Ford said gas station owners who don't put the stickers on their pumps will face fines less than the maximum of $10,000 a day. (Supplied)

Non-compliant gas stations face fines

Ford said Friday that gas station owners who don't put the stickers on their pumps will face fines but stressed that they would be less than the maximum penalty of $10,000 a day. 

The law lets the Tory government send inspectors to see if gas stations are properly displaying the stickers and sets out penalties for non-compliance.

Individuals could be fined up to $500 each day, or up to $1,000 a day for subsequent offences. Corporations could be fined up to $5,000 a day, or up to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences. 

"We will enforce them if these gas stations are not putting them up and it's not going to be $10,000, it's going to be less than $500," Ford said.

The blue stickers show the federal carbon tax adding 4.4 cents per litre to the price of gas now, rising to 11 cents a litre in 2022.

The stickers do not mention the federal government's carbon tax rebates. Residents of provinces with the tax will be getting rebates on their income tax returns that start at $128 annually and increase for people with spouses or dependents at home. The federal government says a family of four in Ontario would get $307 this year.

The sticker plan has drawn condemnation from the opposition parties and business groups, and the threat of a legal challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.