Saskatchewan, Ontario and the constitutionality of a national carbon price

Professor Nathalie Chalifour has published a new op-ed in The Globe and Mail examining Saskatchewan and Ontario’s positions in relation to the federal carbon tax.

She points out that in general, the arguments presented by both provinces are weak, especially since many legal experts agree that Parliament is within its constitutional authority to implement a national carbon price under one or more subject matters. She also highlights some interesting aspects raised by both provincial governments.

She concludes that: “In the end, it looks as if Saskatchewan and Ontario’s complaints are not really about the Constitution, but reflect a politically motivated, foot-stomping show of their unwillingness to do their part in the national and global effort to reduce GHG emissions. The fact that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is turning to the courts for help, when he recently stated he would override a court decision with the notwithstanding clause because he did not agree with the outcome, speaks volumes. Perhaps the biggest irony of all is that the federal government opted to use a carbon price because it is the policy favoured by economists and conservatives because of its efficiency. Yet it is the conservative-led provinces that are making the most noise about it. Meanwhile, these outlier provinces have left Canadian climate policy fragmented and bogged down in costly lawsuits.”

Climate Law Seminar

Professor Nathalie Chalifour taught the first upper year Climate Law Seminar at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law this January, as part of the intensive winter session. Using a multidisciplinary approach characteristic of Chalifour’s teaching, students grappled with legal questions in their broader scientific, economic and political context. Taught in a bilingual format, the seminar featured numerous experts to engage the students in understanding the legal and policy framework for responding to climate change. The course was split between the international context, including an in-depth examination of the Paris Agreement, and Canada’s legal response to climate change at all levels of government.   

Professor Thériault on Climate Justice

Professor Sophie Thériault was recently interviewed for Je vote pour la science about social injustices in the wake of global warming and associated severe weather events, as we have recently witnessed ravaging the Caribbean and the southern United States. 

In Canada, Aboriginal peoples in the North are among the most vulnerable to climate change. How can justice be done for these groups? If a group wants to file a complaint, how can it do so?

Listen to the broadcast here:

Earth v. Emissions

Professor Nathalie Chalifour's latest piece on climate change, featured in Corporate Knights, addresses the topic of climate litigation. Drawing on a series of recent climate-related cases around the world, including several from Canada, Professor Chalifour remarks that "[t]he question for Canada is not so much whether climate litigation will come here (it already has), but rather which climate-based lawsuit will be the first to win."

She further notes that "[t]he success of a climate-based Charter challenge will depend on a number of factors, including who would bring the case, what government conduct would be challenged and whether the courts would accept the causal link between the present and future harms of climate change and the government’s management of GHG emissions." Climate litigation has not been uncontroversial, and it will be interesting to see how it develops in Canada. As with many other environmental concerns, the actions and decisions of citizens, lawmakers, and judges will all be crucial in addressing the issues and the impacts posed by climate change. 

Professor Chalifour on Carbon Taxes

In addition to her publications in academic journals on the timely topic of carbon taxes in Canada, Professor Nathalie Chalifour has recently contributed several op eds to iPolitics regarding this issue. 

In the first, she argues that "the federal government has ample constitutional authority to implement a variety of GHG emissions policies, whether in the form of a national carbon price, a cap on emissions or other regulations", and that "If Ottawa wants to avoid a constitutional challenge from the provinces, it should consider designing the carbon price as a regulatory measure justified as something other than a pure tax."

In a later piece, she argues that "Ottawa also has the authority to establish the recently announced minimum carbon price floor. The key is to carefully design the policy so it falls within the parameters of a relevant constitutional power and in a way that avoids unnecessary intrusions onto provincial turf."