City of Victoria granted intervener status in challenge of carbon tax

The City of Victoria has been granted intervener status in Saskatchewan’s constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax.

The Supreme Court of Canada has accepted the joint application of Victoria, Vancouver, Squamish, Nelson, Richmond and Rossland as interveners in the federal government’s carbon pricing case, expected to be heard in March.

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The high court must decide whether the carbon tax is constitutional and if the federal government can impose it on provinces that have chosen not to implement the tax. ‘The federal tax has already been imposed on Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The federal government recently announced that it will impose a carbon tax on Albertans beginning Jan. 1.

The six municipalities are asking the Supreme Court to uphold the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

“This is in line with the local governments’ declarations of a climate emergency and emission-reduction targets that have been set in each community,” said a joint statement from the municipalities. “The municipalities recognize the importance of urgent, collaborative action at all levels of government to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said a carbon price helps people and businesses make “cleaner choices.”

“This means driving less and using active modes of transportation, opting for electric vehicles and building more energy-efficient homes,” she said in a statement.

B.C.’s net emissions fell by 4.7 per cent over eight years after the province implemented its carbon tax, while maintaining a healthy economy, the statement said. The revenue-neutral carbon tax is one of the most effective and fair ways that governments can address climate change, it said, and is a model for other jurisdictions.

The Supreme Court of Canada website says interveners or groups of interveners are entitled to file a single submission no longer than 10 pages, and can present oral arguments no longer than five minutes at the hearing of the appeal.

B.C.’s attorney general has also been granted permission to present a five-minute oral argument at the hearing of the appeal.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said a national price on pollution is the single-most-effective way to take action against the climate crisis. “Cities are feeling the brunt of climate change and without a federal carbon pricing scheme, it will fall to local governments to pick up the slack,” Stewart said in the joint statement.

District of Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott said municipalities are at the forefront of climate change, preparing for and mitigating against effects such as flooding, forest fires and sea-level rise.

The City of Richmond has already successfully slashed emissions by more than 12 per cent since 2007 through strategies such as use of electric vehicles, policies for energy-efficient developments and an award-winning district energy infrastructure, Mayor Malcolm Brodie said. “Maintaining a national approach to carbon pricing supports the work we and other municipalities are doing to build sustainable and environmentally friendly communities,” he said in the joint statement.

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