Several listeners have contacted me to say it’s against the law for the federal government to impose a national carbon tax. I’ve got bad news for you: they probably do have the legal authority to do it.
One caller made the argument that Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed successfully challenged the federal government’s National Energy Program on the grounds that Ottawa was not allowed to tax provincially owned natural resources under the Canadian Constitution. He said that the carbon tax could face a legal challenge on the same grounds. While that may be the case, it turns out the government has a lot of legal wiggle room to impose this new tax.
I spoke with Canadian Constitution Foundation lawyer Derek From about it. He said there are several sections of the constitution Ottawa could use to justify a national carbon tax: To begin with, their authority over direct taxation, criminal code, and trade and commerce. If those reasons don’t work, the provisions under peace, order and good government. And if all else fails, the constitution grants residual powers to the federal government to legislate in areas not specifically mentioned in the constitution.
No matter which way you slice it, it appears the courts won’t be much help in trying to stop carbon pricing. Listen to my full interview with Derek From to hear all the reasons why.