Ontario forging ahead with $30M challenge of federal carbon pricing

Ontario forging ahead with $30M challenge of federal carbon pricing
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Premier Doug Ford is continuing a court challenge of federal carbon-pricing measures, despite suggesting this summer that he would drop it if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was re-elected.

“You know something? I did,” said Ford, acknowledging his Aug. 23 comment that he would “respect democracy” on Trudeau’s climate-change levy should federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer lose this fall’s election. “But I’ve got to move forward.

“I ran on making life more affordable for the people, I ran on being competitive with companies and we’re just going to move forward,” the premier said during an interview in the Star’s bureau at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

Like Scheer, Ford opposes the federal measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists say contribute to climate change.

But 64.5 per cent of Ontarians voted for parties that favour the levy — the Liberals won 79 of Ontario’s 121 seats, compared to 36 for Scheer’s Tories and six for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats.

The premier was asked about the court battle during his most recent news conference, which was held two months ago in Toronto. He told reporters, “I do respect democracy” and “once the people decide, I believe in democracy.”

Trudeau promised the national carbon-pricing strategy in the 2015 election campaign, in which he won a majority. He was reduced to a minority on Monday.

Under his plan, which took effect in April and increased fuel prices, a family of four receives $307 in federal tax breaks to offset the higher costs. That rebate set to rise to $718 annually by 2022.

Still, Ford has earmarked $30 million for an advertising blitz and the legal challenge, the first round of which the province lost at the Ontario Court of Appeal in June.

Ford’s approach stands in contrast to that of New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, also a Progressive Conservative, who said Tuesday his government is reconsidering its opposition to federal carbon-pricing after the Liberals won six of 10 ridings in his province and the Greens gained one.

“People have voted for a carbon tax,” said Higgs.

Ford’s environment minister stressed New Brunswick’s change has no bearing on Ontario.

“I respect other province’s to make the decisions that are best for them,” Jeff Yurek told reporters on the way into a cabinet meeting.

“We see eye to eye on many issues with guarding to clean up environment and we’ll work with the federal government but we don’t believe that a carbon tax is what is needed,” Yurek said. “We think it makes life more unaffordable, makes us less competitive, which is damaging to our province.”

A potential loss at the Supreme Court is “something we’ll have to deal with,” he added.

Queen’s Park is facing its own court challenge from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association over its gas-pump stickers, which attack the “federal carbon tax” without mentioning the hefty rebates to taxpayers.

The civil-rights group says the mandatory stickers violate the Charter rights of small businesses because they are a form of compelled speech.

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Green Leader Mike Schreiner said Ford should “make good” on his August remarks about abandoning the carbon-tax challenge, and show good faith in taking climate change seriously.

“A good first step would be to stop wasting tax dollars suing the federal government and putting stickers on gas pumps,” said Schreiner.

“Don’t tell us that carbon pricing will be a big job killer one day and then take credit for good provincial job numbers the next day.”
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