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Policy
| 07/27/16

Saskatchewan threatens legal clash over nationwide carbon price

TCE

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and the leaders of Canada’s three territories are pushing back against the federal government’s desire to deliver a nationwide price on carbon, with the prairie leader declaring he will take Ottawa to court if a carbon tax is imposed.

Ahead of a three-day meeting of the nation’s premiers in Whitehorse, Trudeau told CBC News that there will be a national carbon price, and hoped that the provinces would figure out their own path to getting there, but would not rule out imposing it.

“We’re going to make sure there is a strong price on carbon right across the country and we’re hoping that the provinces are going to be able to do that in a way for themselves,” he told the public broadcaster, adding that it was an “essential element” of the government’s climate strategy.

Wall pounced on the comments as soon as he arrived in the Yukon capital for the annual summer meeting of the Council of the Federation last week, telling the same outlet that he had directed government counsel to prepare a constitutional challenge should Ottawa impose a carbon price.

The Saskatchewan leader is not contesting the national emissions reduction pledges, but argues that a top-down approach would breach Ottawa’s commitment to ongoing discussions amongst the provinces and the federal government—a process kicked off by the creation in March of a federal-provincial working group to assess how the country was going to knit together its patchwork of often widely varying provincial climate policies.

British Columbia and Alberta for example have opted for a carbon tax, while Ontario and Quebec favour emissions trading as the best way to reduce greenhouse gases. Saskatchewan has backed a technology-intensive approach instead, favouring the scrubbing of emissions from coal-fired power plants with the establishment of the world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and storage facility at Boundary Dam, together with a 50-percent renewable energy target by 2030, emphasizing wind, hydro and solar.

The working group has yet to conclude its deliberations, with an agreement on a national strategy not expected before the fall. “It seems as if the working group is unnecessary, they’ve already come to their decision: there’s going to be some sort of national price for carbon,” Wall told reporters in Whitehorse.

And Wall is not alone in this position. He was joined by Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, whose province’s energy mix is largely coal and natural-gas dependent, and by the leaders of Canada’s territories. The latter three jointly denounced a national carbon price as a “made-in-the-South” solution because most goods purchased in the north are transported from Ontario, Quebec, BC or Alberta, which have some form of carbon pricing in place. They worry that a carbon price will negatively impact northern cost of living, undermine food security and threaten their small economies.

Northwest Territories Premier Bob MacLeod however opened the door to a compromise, suggesting a carbon price could only work with some sort of compensation for the high cost of living in the far north.

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Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and the three territories really don't want a national carbon price

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