Federal Liberals urge premiers to end court battles against carbon pricing

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Federal Liberals are urging premiers gathering to abandon any legal challenges against Ottawa’s carbon pricing system in the wake of two rulings backing the plan as constitutional.

Liberal MPs Sean Fraser and Mona Fortier held a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday to, in the words of Fortier, “set the table” ahead of the annual Council of the Federation conference in Saskatoon. Thirteen provincial and territorial leaders will meet to discuss a range of issues, including health care and interprovincial trade.

Fraser, the parliamentary secretary to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, called out right-wing premiers who he said are “continuing to waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars in court fighting climate action rather than fighting climate change.”

Both MPs only singled out two premiers by name — Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

“The fact is they would rather silence their critics, muzzle scientists as they did under Stephen Harper, and launch lawsuits or smear campaigns rather than actually present opposing views and ideas that will help reduce our emissions in a responsible way.”

Fortier said she hoped provincial and territorial leaders will discuss “real” strategies to fight climate change.

Almost two weeks ago, Ontario’s top court sided with the federal government’s position that imposing a carbon tax on the province is constitutionally sound. Ford has said he will appeal the decision at the Supreme Court of Canada. His government is also spending big on taxpayer-funded ads that bash carbon pricing and will force gas stations to display anti-carbon tax stickers ahead of the federal election call.

Saskatchewan also lost its legal challenge against the carbon pricing regime before its highest court in May. Premier Scott Moe immediately announced his government would continue its fight at Canada’s top court.

In April, the federal government imposed a carbon tax of $20 per tonne on Ontario, Saskatchewan and two other provinces — Manitoba, and New Brunswick — that do not have a carbon price of their own. The price will rise to $50 per tonne by 2022, with rebates to offset costs of higher gas and home heating in those jurisdictions.

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