Clock is ticking for New Brunswick to join court battle against Ottawa’s carbon tax
This column was published in the Telegraph-Journal on November 2, 2018.
New Brunswick's next premier, Progressive Conservative leader Blaine Higgs, pledged during the recent election to join the court challenge against Ottawa's unfair carbon tax on New Brunswickers. He’s right to do it, and he owes it to voters to stick to his guns.
But the clock is ticking.
Other provincial governments are already lining up to fight Ottawa’s carbon tax in court. The constitutional challenge was launched by Saskatchewan and will be heard next spring.
Ontario and Manitoba are backing Saskatchewan’s court battle and if the polls in Alberta are correct, that province’s next premier has vowed to join the fight as well.
As a province, New Brunswick has the automatic right to intervene, so there’s no need to file an application, but the time for preparation is now if the provincial government intends to make its case in court.
Outgoing premier and NB Liberal leader Brian Gallant said he’d only pursue a court case if he had the potential of winning. But New Brunswick's new government needn’t hum and haw, because it’s already been assessed – and there’s potential for the provinces to defeat the federal Goliath.
The Manitoba government sought legal advice, finding that if a province comes up with its own way to reduce emissions, then it may not be permissible for Ottawa to impose a carbon tax with the same goal.
New Brunswick submitted a plan, and it has emissions reductions in the bag. According to the National Energy Board, the province has already met its 2030 emissions reductions targets – reducing GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels – a full 13 years ahead of schedule.
The fact that New Brunswickers have already done their part in reducing emissions makes Ottawa’s heavy-handed carbon tax all the more grating. This clearly isn’t about reducing emissions. It’s about federal politicians patting themselves on the back, when in reality by the Prime Minister’s own admission, the carbon tax won’t make any difference in global climate change if other countries, like the US and China, aren’t imposing their own.
The carbon tax unfairly hammers New Brunswick’s struggling economy. It will increase the costs of the basic life necessities in a rural province in which winter snow has already fallen.
The carbon tax will squeeze small businesses in the province. Cheques from Ottawa, which will be smaller in New Brunswick than every other province receiving rebates, won’t mean much to those who’ve lost their job.
The operating costs that New Brunswickers pay for ambulances, hospitals and schools will also go up, on top of the existing doctor shortages and emergency room closures.
Then there’s the double standard. Manitoba is incensed with Ottawa for giving Newfoundland and Labrador the OK for its carbon tax plan, to lower its gas tax and introduce a small carbon tax that adds up to the same amount. The province is renaming a portion of its existing gas tax the carbon tax – which they should have every right to do.
But that sounds starkly similar to New Brunswick’s proposed plan, which Ottawa just told the province was not sufficient.
It’s unfair. It’s uneven. And the court case will decide whether it’s unconstitutional.
New Brunswickers can’t afford another tax, and there’s power in numbers. As other provinces and interveners prepare to battle Ottawa’s carbon tax in court, New Brunswick’s government should stand up for its taxpayers and join the fight.
Paige MacPherson is Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.