Alberta Court of Appeal to live stream carbon tax reference case

Next week’s arguments before the Alberta Court of Appeal on the constitutionality of the federal carbon tax will be live streamed, following precedents set in Ontario and Saskatchewan.

The reference case on the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act will be heard by five judges in Edmonton next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

CBC News will be coordinating the video feed, which will be used by a consortium of media outlets. 

The decision to live stream the proceedings was contained in a ruling by Court of Appeal Justice Frans Slatter. 

Cameras are not usually allowed in Alberta courtrooms. The last time proceedings were live streamed was in 2016 when a camera was allowed in court for the decision in the Travis Vader trial. 

The appeal courts in Saskatchewan and Ontario also allowed video cameras to live stream the arguments for their reference cases on the same federal legislation. 

Rulings were in favour of the federal government in both cases. Saskatchewan and Ontario have appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Saskatchewan’s arguments will be heard on Jan. 14.

The previous NDP government enacted an Alberta carbon tax which took effect on Jan. 1, 2017.  Premier Jason Kenney made a repeal of the tax the first piece of legislation passed by his new United Conservative government last spring. 

Last week, Ottawa announced the Alberta Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulation, which taxes emissions of heavy industrial emitters at a rate of $30 a tonne, meets federal requirements at least for the first year. 

But that covers the industrial side of the equation and the consumer side of the federal carbon tax,  which is applied to gasoline, natural gas and propane purchases, will still take effect Jan. 1.

Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips, who was environment minister under the former NDP government, says by fighting Ottawa in court, Kenney’s government is playing politics with climate change, especially since they came up with TIER to comply with part of the legislation they are challenging in court.

“All of this is spending our money for show,” she said. “To fundraise and throw some red meat to the conservative base instead of thoughtfully trying to reduce emissions.” 

Full court

Alberta will argue that a national carbon tax is an overreach of federal authority and prevents provinces from crafting policies unique to their own jurisdictions.  

In addition to lawyers for the governments of Alberta and Canada, thirteen intervenors will make arguments to the court. 

Lawyers for the governments of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan will argue in support of Alberta’s position. 

Sask Energy Incorporated, Saskatchewan Power Corporation and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation are also appearing as intervenors on the Alberta side. 

The International Emissions Trading Association is listed as an intervenor supporting Alberta “in part.”

British Columbia is intervening in support of the Government of Canada. Other intervenors on the federal side include the David Suzuki Foundation, Canadian Public Health Association, Climate Justice Saskatoon, Assembly of First Nations and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.