The dissenting view: Two SCC justices say federal carbon tax ‘rewrites the rules of Confederation’


The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the federal carbon tax law is constitutional, but it was a split decision with a strong dissent that argued the federal law “is a model of federalism that rejects our Constitution and rewrites the rules of Confederation.” The majority decision, written by Chief Justice Richard Wagner, found the law is constitutional because reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of national concern, and the law is focused on that narrow purpose. But two justices, Russell Brown and Malcolm Rowe, argued the carbon tax law tramples on provincial rights and opens the door to further intrusions. A third justice, Suzanne Côté, dissented partially by arguing Ottawa has the right to pass such a law but this one gives the federal cabinet too much power. The 2018 carbon tax law set a minimum national standard for pricing greenhouse gas emissions. If a province has its own pricing regime and it meets the minimum standard, it stays in place. If a province doesn’t meet the standard, a federal carbon tax kicks in.

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