Lawsuit Eays Illegal to Force Gas Stations to Paste Carbon Price Stickers
By Colin Perkel
An Ontario law forcing gas stations to display stickers showing the cost of federal carbon pricing is illegal and should be thrown out, a new lawsuit asserts.
The unproven lawsuit from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act _ dubbed the Sticker Act _ violates free speech provisions of the Constitution.
``The sticker imposed by the Sticker Act constitutes compelled political speech,'' the lawsuit asserts. ``Under threat of significant fines, it legislatively requires gas station owners to express the (government's) position.''
The liberties group says in its filing it was unable to find a gas station owner willing to fight the law despite its ``diligent attempts.''
The Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford brought in the legislation as part of its failed legal battle with Ottawa over carbon pricing ahead of next month's federal election. The federal scheme imposes a charge in those provinces that don't have a carbon-pricing system of their own _ currently 4.4 cents a litre in Ontario.
Ford has consistently denounced the federal legislation as a ``tax grab'' and has said it wants consumers to know what the federal charge will cost Ontario drivers.
``We're going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs,'' Energy Minister Greg Rickford, who is named in the suit, told the legislature in April.
The association, however, says the stickers are part of Ontario's political campaign against Ottawa and there's no good reason to force anyone to display them.
``The Sticker Act requirements do not relate to any technical standards or any concerns about safety,'' the lawsuit states. ``Comments Ontario has made about the Sticker Act in the Ontario legislature and to the public demonstrate that the content of the stickers are political in nature.''
Rickford, who said the province was reviewing the lawsuit and planned to respond, defended the act.
``Ontario's government is standing up for the people by implementing transparency measures that reveal the hidden cost of the federal carbon tax on the price of gasoline,'' Rickford said in a statement.
Critics have complained the taxpayer-funded stickers are misleading because they fail, among other things, to reflect a federal rebate the Liberal government says will put more money into consumer pockets than they are paying at the pump for the carbon levy. It also fails to mention other taxes or gasoline costs.
The act forcing gas stations to put up the stickers took effect on Aug. 30. Failure to do so can carry a fine of $5,000 a day for a first offence, rising to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences. The government has said it would initially issue only warnings rather than fines.
Late last month, the Ontario government asked the Supreme Court of Canada to weigh in on its carbon-pricing battle with Ottawa. The province argues that Ontario's Court of Appeal was wrong to find the carbon price constitutional and within the federal government's right to impose.
Ford has said voters will have the ultimate say on the issue when they cast ballots federally next month.
Greenpeace Canada welcomed the challenge, saying the stickers are misleading, partisan and unconstitutional.
``A government forcing businesses to mislead the public about climate change is a worrying development,'' the organization's Keith Stewart said.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
More 'Work to Do' to Mobilize Canadians on Climate Change Action
By Christian Paas-Lang
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Thursday that he has more work to do to sell Canadians on further actions to fight climate change, pointing to new premiers elected on vows to fight his government's agenda.
Trudeau addressed the issue at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, where he took part in a one-on-one conversation in front of union representatives.
The prime minister said it's clear from public-opinion polls that most Canadians are concerned about the environment and want measures to protect it.
But that desire isn't always reflected in their votes, he said, when voters ``turn around and elect climate-denying provincial premiers right across the country from the Rockies to the Bay of Fundy.''
That's why ``there is work to do in bringing Canadians to a place of understanding'' that fighting climate change is part of creating a better future for children and a better economy, Trudeau said.
Starting last summer, Canadians elected new right-leaning governments in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and Prince Edward Island. The provincial Liberals in Newfoundland and Labrador retained power, but lost their majority government.
Those provincial governments, particularly Premier Doug Ford in Ontario and Premier Jason Kenney in Alberta, have challenged the federal carbon tax and scrapped significant provincial climate change measures.
``And the danger that will happen is if, after getting Conservative governments across the province, suddenly we have a Conservative government in Ottawa that completely flips around and starts taking us back on the progress we've made,'' Trudeau said.
``And I know very few Canadians want that.''
In a statement, Conservative environment critic Ed Fast said climate change was a ``real and pressing threat,'' but the government's plan was more about taxes than the environment, and would not help the country hit its emissions targets.
``All it does is make life harder and more unaffordable for Canadians by increasing the price of gasoline and home heating costs,'' Fast said.
The Conservative climate plan emphasizes the global aspect of climate change and would save more money for Canadians, he added.
Trudeau reiterated his government's commitment to combating climate change, citing the federal price on carbon, a coming ban on single-use plastics as early as 2021 and the Liberals' ocean protection plan.
He said there is ``lots more to do'' after this fall's election without providing specifics. Instead, he highlighted the importance of ``bringing Canadians along'' to build a consensus on further climate action.
The Canadian Press. All rights are reserved.
P.E.I., Quebec Intervene in Saskatchewan's Legal Challenge of Carbon Tax
By Teresa Wright
Prince Edward Island and Quebec have joined as interveners in Saskatchewan's legal challenge of the federal carbon tax.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King said in Ottawa Monday that he does not want to be seen as a Progressive Conservative premier just joining the ``resistance'' of other conservative provincial leaders across the country fighting the Trudeau government's carbon tax.
Rather, P.E.I. is joining the court challenge simply because the province wants to have the chance to speak up in court, if necessary _ possibly even to support the tax, King said.
``Our position could be that perhaps this goes through and they try to kill the (carbon pricing) program, for example, in court, so maybe we would be in a position to work with our other partners to say we don't want the program killed because we believe in a carbon-reduction plan,'' King said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
King was in Ottawa to see Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of this week's Council of the Federation meetings in Saskatoon.
He said he told Trudeau he's in favour of the federal Liberals' carbon-pricing program, but also wants to find ways to reward carbon-reduction measures rather than just penalizing emitters and consumers.
``As an island province we can't pretend that climate change isn't a real issue because we see it and live it every single day,'' King said.
``We actually have no plan to fight this (federal carbon price), we've never had an intention to fight this ... the brand of Progressive Conservatism that I believe in and that I represent in Prince Edward Island is vastly different than it is in other jurisdictions. I wouldn't just join the fight because another party that I am somewhat part of or connected to is doing that. My decisions have to be made in the best interests of Prince Edward Islanders.''
Quebec Justice Minister Sonia LeBel said in a statement Monday her province is also intervening in the Saskatchewan case, to ensure Quebec retains its jurisdictional autonomy over its cap-and-trade system.
Quebec and P.E.I. are among seven provinces now registered as interveners in the Saskatchewan challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has previously failed at the province's Court of Appeal.
Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and British Columbia have also filed notices of intervention in Saskatchewan's appeal.
Much like Saskatchewan's, Ontario's top court recently upheld the federal government's right to implement a carbon-pricing system in a separate legal challenge mounted by Premier Doug Ford's government.
A number of the conservative premiers who have been most vocal in denouncing the national carbon price gathered in Alberta on Monday ahead of the Council of the Federation meetings _ a gathering that aimed to show a united front on a number of issues, including resistance to the federal carbon tax.
Neither King nor Quebec Premier Francois Legault took part.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters Monday he was pleased to see more provinces like Quebec joining his government's legal challenge and said justice ministers from all interested provinces will be invited to work together to make the strongest case possible.
The Canadian Press. All rights are reserved.
Tax Credits, Penalizing Big Polluters, Key to Conservative Climate Plan
By Mia Rabson
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his climate plan will be ``Canada's best chance'' to hit its targets under the Paris climate-change agreement and that it can happen without a carbon tax.
Scheer outlined his climate policy in the backyard of a private home in rural Chelsea, Que., Wednesday evening, not far from where flooding linked to climate change hit for the second time in three years this spring. Flies and mosquitoes swarmed and a handful of protesters gathered on the gravel road in front of the property.
``Conservatives fundamentally believe that you cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment,'' Scheer said. ``Instead, the answer lies in technology.''
The environment, and climate change in particular, are garnering the most attention ever heading into a federal campaign as Canadians in all parts of the country are dealing with more frequent forest fires, droughts, floods and storms.
The plan does not specify how much any of its 55 elements would cut emissions and suggests Canada's path to meeting the targets would include using Canadian products to reduce emissions in other countries.
``Greenhouse-gas emissions do not recognize borders,'' Scheer said. ``Nor are the impacts of climate change proportional to any one country's emissions. Whether emissions are reduced in Canada or in China, the scientific impact on global climate change is the exact same.''
His platform, dubbed A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, looks at introducing a capital cost allowance for industries that show they are reducing emissions in other countries. He specifically mentions using Canadian liquefied natural gas to replace coal as a source of electricity and exporting more Canadian aluminum, which he says is made with fewer emissions than aluminum in other countries.
Canada's commitment under the Paris climate-change agreement is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030. Canada needs to get to 513 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to hit that target. In 2017, the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled, Canada's emissions were 716 million tonnes.
There is an allowance in the Paris accord for ``co-operative mechanisms,'' which allow for reductions in one country to be counted towards the targets of another country as long as both countries agree. The rules for that allowance have not yet been set and the intention was for it to be used for countries to strengthen their targets beyond the original Paris commitments.
The targets in the Paris accord are not legally binding, however, so there is no monetary penalty if Canada misses them. In a question-and-answer session after the speech, Scheer refused to be drawn on how much his plan could be expected to reduce Canada's emissions.
Canada's existing climate plan under the Liberal government leaves the country about 80 million tonnes shy of its Paris targets in 2030. The national price on carbon, set at $20 a tonne this year, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022, will reduce emissions between 50 million and 60 million tonnes a year, an Environment Canada analysis says.
Scheer's plan is to make scrapping that carbon tax one of his first actions as prime minister.
He also intends to replace the Liberals' system for applying the carbon tax to major industrial emitters with one that requires them to invest in clean technology for their own companies.
Scheer promises to give companies a tax break on income earned from developing and patenting green technology in Canada. Homeowners will get a tax credit worth as much as $2,850 for making energy-efficiency upgrades to their homes, such as installing solar panels or putting in better-insulated windows.
He also intends to create a green-technology fund with $250 million in federal money to draw private investments in green technology that could repay the federal contributions when the technology is sold.
Liberal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna took to a microphone on Parliament Hill to scorn the Tory plan shortly after Scheer finished talking.
``I guess we now know why Andrew Scheer waited until the dying hours of this Parliament to shovel out his ideas to tackle climate change,'' she said. ``It's because he has a fake plan. No numbers, no serious measures and no commitment to move the needle on climate action. He says we can save the planet but we don't have to make any changes. Pollution can be free, we can burn coal, develop oil forever, build as many pipelines as oil lobbyists want. Just invent some technologies and sell them to other countries _ that'll do it. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. The Paris agreement requires every country to do their part ? You can't export your way out of this problem.''
The New Democrats' Peter Julian called the Tory plan ``a collection of boutique tax credits and a rebranding exercise ... But I would say to the Conservatives, 'Nice pictures, though.' Because that's the only benefit I see from the plan they presented today.''
Environment groups likewise panned the Scheer plan, saying it is similar to requests from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which released a climate plan a few weeks ago.
``This is a plan only an oil lobbyist could love,'' said Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada.
Catherine Abreu, executive director of the Climate Action Network Canada, said the Scheer strategy is a research-and-development plan, not a climate-action policy.
``This might be a plan to cut other things but it is not a plan to cut emissions,'' said Abreu. ``Is Canada somehow going to save the world by increasing our own emissions?''
_With files from Joan Bryden and Teresa Wright
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
Small Business to Get Help on Energy Efficiency Upgrades From Carbon Tax Money
By Mia Rabson
Small businesses in the four provinces with a national carbon price will get $1.4 billion over the next four years to help them cut their carbon-tax bills by reducing their energy use.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is introducing the carbon price rebate program for small and medium-sized businesses today, nearly two months after the new carbon price began being applied in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
``It took a while, to be honest, to get the details right,'' McKenna said.
She said she wanted to make sure the program will be workable and easy for businesses to use.
There will be a direct rebate program for small and medium-sized businesses to get back up to half the cost of buying more energy-efficient equipment and appliances. It's expected the rebates will be worth $44 million this year and the maximum rebate for any individual business will be $20,000.
More details on what equipment or retrofits will be eligible for what level of rebate won't be available until regulations are delivered after the Liberal government's budget-implementation bill passes in Parliament. McKenna said the idea is to include things like refrigerators, dishwashers and anti-idling devices for vehicles to help everyone from farmers to convenience-store owners and restaurateurs.
``We wanted very practical things that will help small businesses save money,'' she said.
A separate program will allow businesses to apply to get rebates for retrofits that make their businesses use less energy. That program, which will be about $106 million this year, will be for projects that cost up to $1 million.
The funds come from the revenues Canada is collecting from the $20-a-tonne carbon price imposed April 1 on the provinces that don't currently have carbon-pricing systems of their own. Legislation requires all the revenues from the carbon price to be returned to individuals and businesses in provinces where they were collected.
Most of the rebates _ 90 per cent _ are going to individuals through income-tax rebates. The rest is reserved for businesses and non-profits, municipalities, hospitals, schools, universities and Indigenous communities.
The Liberals expect most businesses to be able to pass on their carbon costs to consumers through higher prices for goods and services, which is why the majority of the rebates are going to individuals.
Another separate program is to be announced to help offset carbon-price costs for municipalities, hospitals, universities and schools.
Over the next four years, Ottawa anticipates small and medium-sized businesses will be eligible for $1.4 billion in rebates for energy-efficiency ugprades through the two streams.
The carbon price is set to rise $10 per tonne each year until it hits $50 a year in 2022. The government says it will revisit the price then to see how effectively it's cutting Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions.
For homeowners and smaller-emitting businesses the carbon price will apply on 21 different input fuels and combustible materials used to produce energy, including gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, tires and asphalt shingles. The expectation is that at $20 a tonne, a tank of gasoline will cost about $2 more, and a monthly residential natural gas heating bill will go up $8.
Large industrial emitters that produce more than 50,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year are bumped into a separate program, where the price is paid on a portion of the company's own total emissions, rather than on the input fuels they use.
More than half a million small businesses in Canada are affected by the national carbon price in the four covered provinces.
The Canadian Press & the Associated Press. All rights are reserved.
Greenhouse Gases Causing Canadian Arctic Seas to Acidify Quicker
By Bob Weber
Greenhouse gases are acidifying Canada's Arctic waters at a faster rate than anywhere else in the North, says a report presented earlier this week at a meeting of the eight countries that ring the Arctic Circle.
The summary tabled for policy-makers at the Arctic Council meeting is based on research that predicts the Beaufort Sea off Canada's northwest coast will be corrosive enough within a decade to make it hard for animals such as clams or crabs to create shells.
That's expected to spread east, with similar impacts in Baffin Bay, by mid-century.
While much remains unknown about how the northern ecosystem will react, scientists fear the changes are likely to make it tough for the fish that seals, beluga whales and Arctic char depend on for food.
``Some of the fastest rates of ocean acidification currently observed are in the Arctic Ocean, with important physiological and geochemical thresholds already surpassed,'' the report says.
Ocean acidification happens as seawater absorbs carbon from the air. Arctic seas are more vulnerable than others, because higher runoff from rivers increases carbon flows into those oceans. Declining ice cover lengthens their exposure.
Ocean water is not yet below neutral on the pH scale used to measure acidity, but it has been declining for decades. That has resulted in lower saturations of dissolved calcium-bearing minerals marine animals need to build shells and bones.
The average decline in those minerals across all Arctic waters has been about 15 per cent since 1980. In Canada, those declines have averaged about twice that.
``Marine species form calcium carbonate skeletons or shells,'' said Nadja Steiner, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist who helped write the report. ``There is a point where the saturation state would start to dissolve those shells.
``If the species lives in that undersaturated condition, then the species becomes more fragile or it needs a lot more energy because it continuously has to reproduce the calcium carbonate that dissolves.''
This week's report is an update of previous research done in 2013.
Since then, pools of acidified water have grown both deeper and larger. The Western Arctic has become the first ocean area on Earth to have large and expanding pools of such water near the surface.
Acidification is happening at the same time that water temperature is increasing. Little is known about the combined impact on marine ecosystems, which provide about 10 per cent of the world's fish catch.
``What you're seeing now in the Arctic is that you have extreme changes in temperature that already stress the species,'' Steiner said. ``In addition to that, we have acidification, where we're not sure how bad it is.''
Some of the tiny creatures at the base of the food web appear resilient. But molluscs grow smaller and weaker shells, coral grows slower and fewer crabs survive.
Some fish species seem to thrive in the new environment. But Arctic cod, the main food of beluga whales, seals and Arctic char, seem to grow more slowly.
More research is needed, said Steiner, especially amid suggestions that climate change could open the Arctic to commercial fishers chasing migrating stocks.
``Caution,'' she said. ``A lot of caution.
``People are looking at it but there are so many uncertainties.''
The Canadian Press. All rights are reserved.
Federal Carbon Tax Ruled Constitutional
By Stephanie Taylor
The federal government used a favourable court decision on its carbon tax Friday to put pressure on premiers who don't like it to stop fighting it.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision that the tax imposed on provinces without a carbon price of their own is constitutional.
``Today's decision is a win for Canadians and for future generations,'' Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in Ottawa. ``This decision confirms that putting a price on carbon pollution ... is an effective and essential part of any serious response to the global challenge of climate change,'' she said.
``It is time for Conservative politicians to stop the partisan games and join in on serious and effective climate action.''
McKenna straight out challenged new Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Ontario's Doug Ford, Saskatchewan's Scott Moe and federal Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer: ``Will you stop blocking climate action and join us in fighting climate change?''
Saskatchewan's reply was no.
``Though I am disappointed by today's ruling, our fight will continue on behalf of Saskatchewan people _ who oppose the ineffective, job-killing Trudeau carbon tax. It was a 3-2 split decision and we look to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,'' Moe said.
``No one in this nation should confuse climate action with the carbon tax,'' he said. ``We will continue to use each and every tool in our toolbox to block ... Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ineffective carbon tax ... while we in this province continue with our fight against climate change.''
The Saskatchewan Party government had asked the court for its opinion on the levy that came into effect April 1 in provinces without a carbon price of their own _ Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick.
Alberta has a carbon tax brought in by the former NDP government, but Kenney has promised to move quickly to dump it and fight any effort by Ottawa to impose its own.
``We disagree with the narrow ruling by the majority that the federal government has the power to ensure a provincial minimum price on carbon, and will be joining Saskatchewan in their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,'' Kenney said in a statement.
In a 155-page decision on the reference case, Chief Justice Robert Richards wrote that establishing minimum national standards for a price on greenhouse gas emissions does fall under federal jurisdiction.
He said Ottawa has the power to impose its carbon tax under a section of the Constitution that states Parliament can pass laws in the name of peace, order and good government.
Two of the five Appeal Court justices suggested the federal government's actions are not a valid use of that section of the Constitution.
McKenna called climate change an issue of national concern.
``Pollution doesn't know any borders. And we need to be able to act as a country,'' she said. ``We are witnessing Canadians across the country hurting from the impacts of climate change.''
Scheer said in a statement that the Liberal carbon tax ``isn't a plan to lower emissions. It's just another cash grab which is hurting already overtaxed Canadians.''
Saskatchewan told a hearing before the Appeal Court that the question wasn't one of climate change. It argued the federal tax is unconstitutional because it's not applied evenly across the country and oversteps into provincial jurisdiction.
Richards wrote that there is no constitutional requirement that laws enacted by Parliament must apply uniformly from coast to coast to coast.
He also said the environment ``is not a legislative subject matter that has been assigned to either Parliament or the provincial legislatures under the Constitution Act.''
Federal government lawyers argued that Ottawa has the power to put a price on pollution, because greenhouse gas emissions are a national concern.
The two dissenting judges said it is ``constitutionally repugnant'' for Ottawa to exercise its power to control measures taken by provinces on emissions.
``The notion that national benchmarks are required merely speaks of a federal dissatisfaction with provincial policy and a desire to impose federal policies on those provinces,'' they wrote.
``It is a dispute about what the right numbers are and who gets to decide what they are.''
Ontario is also challenging the federal tax and is waiting for a decision after arguing its case in court last month.
Ford, speaking in Bracebridge, Ont., after meeting with officials about flooding, said Friday's decision is just the beginning.
``This series isn't over yet. That's Game 1. We still have other games to play,'' he said. ``If we can't beat them in the courts, we're going to beat them at the ballot box in (the) October (federal election).''
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs promised to join what he said will ``almost certainly'' be an appeal to the Supreme Court for its opinion.
``Our legal efforts do not mean that New Brunswick will stop its efforts on important climate change initiatives. New Brunswick remains committed to doing its part to reduce carbon emissions.''
Manitoba filed papers in Federal Court last week for its own challenge.
Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said Manitoba's case is different because the province had planned its own, lower carbon tax, but it was rejected by Ottawa.
``We have filed for a judicial review, not just on constitutional grounds, but also on the grounds that Canada acted unfairly by rejecting our plan.'' he said.
The federal government's carbon price starts at a minimum of $20 a tonne and is to rise $10 each year until 2022.
_ With files from Teresa Wright in Ottawa and Steve Lambert in Winnipeg