In the Greta Thunberg Cup, the series is Carbon Tax: 2, Taxpayers 1.
But the score of justices ruling in the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario appeals is just 8-to-7 for Ottawa. In Ontario, Ottawa won 4 justices to 1. In Saskatchewan, Team Carbon won 3-to-2.
Upsetting the series was Alberta, winning 4-to-1. The federal carbon tax now heads to the Supreme Court, which will sit in final judgement of its constitutionality.
The opinion of the Alberta Court of Appeal was stinging.
“The act [carbon tax] is a constitutional Trojan Horse…Almost every aspect of the provinces’ development and management of their natural resources would be subject to federal regulation.”
This means that if the carbon tax is allowed to stand as is, Ottawa would have almost limitless power to pick and choose which provinces to tax and regulate. In short, it would be the end of any pretence of division-of-powers federalism.
It’s the first big victory of the anti-carbon tax coalition after being lectured by leftist politicians and pundits that Ottawa could do anything it liked, and so it made no sense to resist as provinces.
Rachel Notley made this argument as premier, regularly lecturing the opposition Wildrose and PCs that their opposition was hollow. The appellate court’s ruling punched a hole straight through her argument, and left her smarting.
“As long as we have a government here in Alberta that resists significant, meaningful effort that can be consistently relied upon by international investors to address climate change, while setting out clear rules for how we grow our oil and gas resources in a responsible way, Alberta will be left behind.”
She couldn’t come out and say it, but she was cheering for Ottawa’s right to shove its carbon tax down Alberta’s throat. She has reasons to do so.
First, she sincerely believes that a carbon tax on Alberta would help to save the planet. Be your own judge.
Second, she would like nothing more than for the carbon tax albatros around her party’s neck to be off by the time she runs to re-take the Premier’s Office in 2023.
And third, the federalist-left has always welcomed greater federal power as a means of neutralizing Alberta’s reactionary, backward, conservative instincts. It’s an old play that began with Alexander Rutherford, through Alison Redford, to the NDP leader today.
But try as she might, the vast majority of Albertans that want no carbon tax half-won. I say “half-won”, because Alberta still has a large carbon tax. They just renamed the old NDP tax, removed it from consumers (home heating and gasoline), and kept it on most industry.
But I quibble. We aren’t supposed to care about that carbon tax. The point is that this carbon tax has been repealed, and it was a great day in court for good guys.
But this begs the question: If the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional (that is, very illegal), why are we still paying it? Why – pray tell – is Ottawa keeping the money that they have illegally shaken down from Albertans (and all Canadians in provinces in opposition to the tax)?
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe were both right on the money when they said that Ottawa should reimburse taxpayers for the illegal collection. Posthaste.
Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer asked the federal government in a letter to “work out a process for the reimbursement to Albertans of taxes paid.”
That could prove more complicated than at first glance.
Unlike income taxes, there’s no real way to know how much each individual household pays in the carbon tax each year. It’s not just a matter of counting every single gas station receipt and home heating bill in the country. It’s also the passed-on costs from more expensive groceries and consumer goods, which we don’t see directly. Albertans that live in colder climates and rural areas, or drive to work, pay far more than a barista biking to his/her coffee shop in balmy Vancouver.
One option would be a flat rebate to each household, where governments can do their best to calculate the average tax paid. But that is the problem with the current “rebate” program, since it doesn’t really know how much each individual household paid in carbon taxes.
The other option would be for Ottawa to “rebate” the revenue collected to each province from which it was plundered. The provincial government could then decide on a one-time income tax reduction or payout, but again, this system doesn’t have any way of know what people paid in the first place.
There’s no right way to do it, but any option is better than leaving it in the kleptocratic paws of Ottawa.
It could all be a moot point though. As of press time, the Trudeau government was silent about any return of the ill-gotten loot. They may just decide to keep it in their wallet until the case is finally decided at the Supreme Court.
And Team Carbon Tax has a strong chance in the final round. Although the majority of the Supreme Court was appointed by Stephen Harper, many of them regularly side with the Liberal appointees in making dubious decisions. Their decision to allow governments to fine otherwise innocent people for transporting beer between provinces comes to mind. The Supreme Court has a poor institutional record of deciding federal-provincial matters in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s a hopeless case. Or even if it was, that it isn’t worth fighting.
Derek Fildebrandt is Publisher of the Western Standard and the President and CEO of Wildrose Media Corp.
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