With a split decision by Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruling the federal government’s carbon pricing scheme was within its constitutional powers, the only true winners are lawyers.
They are and will continue to rake in multi-millions of taxpayer dollars as Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, Manitoba and British Columbia fight the federal government, or one another, over federal/provincial jurisdiction.
Lawsuits between domestic governments are simply propaganda tools used by competing ideologies to affirm a sense of injustice and anger between tribes. Defeats in the court give the losing tribe more ammunition to bad mouth our judiciary, an important democratic pillar, and to promote more anger and resentment amongst Canadians. When feelings rule, facts and reason disappear.
When right-wing parties were conservative (market economy with government oversight to protect consumers and vulnerable populations) and before they became neo-liberal (low taxes, no regulations, small government), conservative politicians believed in the need for carbon emission reductions. In fact, both the carbon tax and the cap-and-trade system were Conservative brain child’s—both put a price on pollution to change behaviour and encourage investment in alternate energy sources using market forces.
Today, right-wing, neo-liberal parties change their spin on climate change depending on the audience.
They know the environment doesn’t win elections, yet polls consistently find the majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change.
That’s why Prime Minister-hopeful Andrew Scheer will float his left-wing carbon reduction plan of subsidies and incentives for individuals, and regulations and fines on industry for the election season.
Once elected his plan will become neo-liberal-friendly by simply reducing targets, gutting oversight agencies and allowing industry to self-monitor.
The majority of Justices based their decision on two points of law. First, the carbon tax was not a tax because it did not raise revenue for the federal government.
Under the federal scheme, 100 per cent of the carbon tax revenue is returned back to individuals and businesses in the provinces where they were collected. Rather than a tax, it is a regulatory fee on emissions for the purpose of changing behaviour.
The second finding was that climate change is an area of shared jurisdiction between Ottawa and the provinces and they must work together. The majority of Justices found that the federal plan allows for significant provincial action on carbon emissions and respects Canada’s Constitution. Of course, this ruling only makes sense to those who are not climate deniers and those who believe pollution and CO2 can cross political borders.
The timing is awful, but eventually, the TransMountain pipeline will receive the go ahead. That is if the majority of Justices in our provincial and federal Supreme Courts continue to rule that the federal government has constitutional powers over cross-border issues, including pipelines and carbon emissions.
Today there are Premiers such as Doug Ford of Ontario, Mike Harcourt of B.C. and now Jason Kenney who routinely launch or trigger lawsuits instead of governing.
Unfortunately, the results are dismal including unnecessary delays on important economic projects (courts move very slowly) and multi-millions of tax dollars wasted on lawyer fees. But the most dangerous precedence is these new age politicians are capitulating their constitutional governance powers to an unelected judiciary.
Interestingly, when the vast majority of political leaders were lawyers, they seldom ceded their elected power to the judiciary branch of government.
Effective leadership is more than riling up an angry crowd and getting them out to vote. The hard work of leadership in a democracy is disagreement, negotiation, collaboration, deliberation, compromise, respect and making decisions that benefit more than just one tribe.