Ontario: Fighting to uphold federal jurisdiction over climate change action

Reference re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act
Photo by Chris Hindy via Flickr. Image obtained under Creative Commons. 
Program area – Climate Status: Victory
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The Ontario government challenged the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act,  heard in the province’s Court of Appeal in April 2019. The court examined whether the act was, as a whole or in part, constitutional. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has turned climate inaction — cancelling Ontario’s cap and trade program and defying the carbon price — into one of his signature policies.

Ecojustice was again given leave to intervene in the Ontario case in support of the federal government, representing both the David Suzuki Foundation and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation.

On June 28, 2019, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued their decision in Reference re Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act C65807.

The court confirmed the federal government has the power to step in when the province fails to effectively tackle climate change. The court found "the need for a collective approach to a matter of national concern, and the risk of non-participation by one or more provinces, permits Canada to adopt minimum national standards to reduce GHG emissions. The Act does this and no more. It leaves ample scope for provincial legislation in relation to the environment, climate change and GHGs, while narrowly constraining federal jurisdiction to address the risk of provincial inaction."

Climate change is a national emergency that requires an urgent response. Ecojustice is fighting to ensure the federal government has the ability to respond to that emergency.

Protecting the environment is a shared federal and provincial responsibility. Provinces across Canada should be required to work towards implementing a fair system that holds polluters to account for putting communities and the climate at risk by increasing greenhouse gas pollution in our atmosphere.

Canada will not be able to meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if provinces are allowed to opt out of taking action.

What does this victory mean?

A victory means that the federal government will have the ability to respond to climate change, a national emergency. Climate change will affect the health and security of all Canadians, and only a short window of time remains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone in Canada deserves the security of safe climate, and no province should be allowed to put that at risk through their inaction.

Key developments

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