Politics

Federal-provincial legal brawls the new normal in Canada, Saskatchewan premier says

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said legal battles are becoming a normal part of intergovernmental relations in Canada, after Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal ruled that the carbon tax imposed on the province by the federal government is constitutionally sound and falls within the legislative authority of Parliament.

Saskatchewan is one of three provinces challenging the federal carbon tax in court

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his government plans to appeal a court decision that declared the federal carbon tax constitutional. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says federal-provincial legal battles are becoming a normal part of intergovernmental relations in Canada.

"It's sure unfortunate that that does seem to be the case," he told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio's The House.

Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal ruled Friday that the carbon tax imposed on the province by the federal government is constitutionally sound and falls within the legislative authority of Parliament.

Almost immediately after the ruling, Moe said his government plans to file an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Friday's court ruling was a split decision, with two of the five judges dissenting from the ruling. Moe said that dissent gives him reason to believe an appeal could be successful.

"We had two judges that had put forward that they did believe this was not constitutional, that the federal government should not have the ability to to implement this tax on hardworking Saskatchewan residents," Moe said.

The province has about 30 days to appeal, according to Saskatchewan Attorney General Don Morgan. The provincial government would act as an intervener in other court challenges against the carbon tax, the premier said.

"We'll be intervening in any and all of their cases that they put forward against this policy," Moe said.

Manitoba and Ontario have launched court challenges against the carbon tax, which was implemented by the federal government on April 1 in provinces that did not have their own carbon pricing plan that satisfied criteria laid out by Ottawa.

National unity crisis?

But the federal carbon tax is not the only catalyst for legal battles.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned the Senate against passing the federal Liberal government's environmental assessment bill in its current form, saying it risks inflaming a burgeoning national unity "crisis" in his province.

In an appearance before the upper house's energy committee Thursday, Kenney said that if Bill C-69 passes in its current form, he'll launch a constitutional challenge to kill the legislation.

Jason Kenney says he plans to file a constitutional challenge to Bill C-69 if the bill is passed without serious amendments. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Moe echoed Kenney's point: C-69 and bills like it, he said, "are directly targeted at industries that are important to the province of Saskatchewan."

Ontario Sen. Frances Lankin told The House she agrees the bill could create some unity issues, but added that Kenney isn't helping matters by calling it "crisis."

"I would say with great respect to the premier, he has a leadership role," she said. "He needs to play a role and dampen down the rhetoric."

Earlier this week, Kenney touched off another legal battle — this one with the government of British Columbia.

On Wednesday, Kenney confirmed that Bill 12 — which purports to give Alberta the power to cut oil and gas exports to other provinces — has become law.

In response, British Columbia filed the legal paperwork in Alberta Court of Queen's Bench for an injunction and a constitutional challenge of Bill 12.

Kenney insisted the new law will only be used if B.C. continues to obstruct the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

For his part, B.C. Premier John Horgan denied that his government was doing anything to delay the pipeline. He said his government has issued 309 of the 1,182 permits required and will continue to issue new ones in future.

With files from Canadian Press, Creeden Martell and Michelle Bellefontaine

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