Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested Friday that his Progressive Conservative government will end its carbon-tax challenge if the federal Liberals win the October election, even as the province plans to proceed with its appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Ford said the federal carbon tax will ultimately be decided at the ballot box, not by the courts. Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer opposes the tax, and has said he’d repeal it if elected on Oct. 21.
If the Liberals or another party that supports carbon pricing wins the federal election, Mr. Ford said he’ll consult with Ontario Attorney-General Doug Downey on next steps.
“We’ll be consulting with the cabinet, and then we’ll move forward from there. But I do respect democracy,” Mr. Ford told reporters at an unrelated event at the Toronto Police College.
“Once the people decide, I believe in democracy, I respect democracy, we move on. The people will have the opportunity, not the courts.”
Mr. Ford called the carbon-levy a “terrible tax” that will raise prices on gasoline and other things, and said his government still plans to require gas stations to display stickers opposing the federal carbon-pricing plan.
While the government’s legislation set out fines as high as $10,000 a day for gas stations that don’t comply, Mr. Ford said Friday the fines will not rise above $500.
Still, he added he will not be getting involved in the federal election, even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly invoked the Premier’s name in attacks on Mr. Scheer.
“I’m too busy governing, and [Mr. Trudeau] is too busy campaigning and that’s fine. You know I take it as a compliment if he feels that threatened about me,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford’s office later said the government will fight the carbon tax with “every tool at our disposal.”
A spokeswoman for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna urged Mr. Ford to “end this waste of taxpayer dollars.” The Ontario government has set aside $30-million to challenge the tax in court.
“Premier Ford shouldn’t have to wait for the federal election to do the right thing,” spokeswoman Sabrina Kim said.
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta have launched constitutional challenges against the federal tax, and Manitoba has also taken the matter to federal court. Both Saskatchewan and Alberta said on Friday they will pursue their court cases no matter what happens in October.
“Regardless of the outcome of the federal election, Saskatchewan will continue to advance our case to the Supreme Court of Canada to gain clarity from our nation’s highest court on this important question of jurisdictional authority," said Jim Billington, a spokesman for Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.
In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the federal government’s carbon price as constitutional, saying it falls within Ottawa’s powers to address matters of national concern under the “peace, order and good government” clause. Mr. Ford’s government said Friday it still plans to file its appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada next Wednesday.
In May, Saskatchewan’s Court of Appeal ruled in a split decision that the tax is constitutional. Saskatchewan has also filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
But the province recently asked that the hearing, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5, be pushed back so the province can co-ordinate its legal challenges with similar ones coming from other provinces. It is now expected to be heard in January.
With a report from James Keller in Calgary and the Canadian Press.
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