On the federal carbon tax, here’s why we can’t all just get along

By John Michael McGrath, TVO Climate Watch, April 16, 2019

The chief justice of Ontario's highest court got to the point early on Monday morning, one hour into arguments in the provincial government's case against the federal carbon tax.

Translating from legalese: Chief Justice George Strathy asked the lawyer for Ontario whether the courts couldn’t find some way for the province and the federal government to live and let live, as far as climate policy is concerned.

“There is a principle of interpretation that says courts should strive to find a harmonious interpretation of statute so they can live together, so you can have overlapping jurisdiction between provincial and federal legislation,” Strathy said to Josh Hunter, lawyer for Ontario’s attorney general. Shouldn’t it be possible to find a “harmonious interpretation” on carbon taxes?

The answer from Ontario, in short, is no: the province says the power the federal government is claiming is so far-reaching, so intrusive, that the usual rules of judicial peacemaking don’t apply. The core of Ottawa's carbon-tax legislation needs to rejected by the court, Ontario says, or the federal government will be able to trample all over the areas of provincial jurisdiction that are spelled out in the constitution.


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