They Said It: Sask. reacts to Supreme Court carbon tax ruling

·4 min read

The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld a federal policy that was fiercely contested by Saskatchewan's provincial government.

The 6-3 split decision upholds the constitutionality of the carbon tax, a pivotal part of the Liberal climate change plan that accounts for at least one-third of the emissions Canada aims to cut over the next decade.

Here's what some Saskatchewan leaders said as they heard the news on Thursday.

“SARM is extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling regarding the carbon tax challenge by the Government of Saskatchewan. SARM's position is that the federally imposed carbon tax is unfair to Saskatchewan’s rural municipalities, farmers, and ranchers, and will continue to put Saskatchewan producers at a competitive disadvantage.”

— Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities

"We think that if it leads to a greater focus on helping northern and remote communities adapt to climate change by making renewables cheaper and more accessible, then it’s a great result. We haven’t seen that happen yet, and the cost of energy in the north is a growing concern."

— Matt Heley, CEO of New North

"We've been behind the provincial government in this fight. It's costing municipalities and their residents hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year. We're not really sure what we're getting back from that. It's definitely a concern. We're going to keep working with our provincial government to help them come up with our own initiatives and make sure we look out for our residents."

— Rodger Hayward, president of Municipalities of Saskatchewan

“The Saskatchewan Environmental Society is happy to see that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of a decision that enables the federal and provincial governments to act co-operatively on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Remember: the government of Saskatchewan chose to initiate this time-consuming, costly court case instead of crafting a carbon pricing policy that best fit this province’s needs."

— Allyson Brady, executive director of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society

"It's frustrating and disappointing just for the fact that producers want to see a resolution to the issues we keep bringing forward on this carbon pricing model. We have to pay the cost and it comes off our bottom line. ... A lot of producers will find their operations very heavily impacted."

— Todd Lewis, president of Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan

"We're glad that this court case is over and that they decided in favour of the federal government being able to require climate action. We wish that it didn't take two years and a huge amount of effort to come what we see as an extremely obvious conclusion. "

— Jim Elliott, activist at the Council of Canadians, Regina Chapter

“To be clear, the debate is not, and should not, be whether we need to transition to a lower carbon economy, but how to manage the process. There is a better way forward; the federal government’s pan-Canadian approach to pollution pricing has not recognized the unique challenges present in Saskatchewan, putting undue hardship on our residents and businesses. It is unfortunate that they will continue this approach.

"... We really need climate change policy where emission-intensive and trade-exposed industries, the foundation of Saskatchewan’s economy, are not penalized by one-size-fits-all carbon pricing."

— Steve McLellan, CEO of Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce

"I certainly hope this ends the perpetual conflict around this issue. I don't think it will. The carbon tax debate has proven far too useful to Conservatives as a cudgel to bash the federal Liberals at every moment, and certainly our premier and the premier of Alberta have been more than happy to use that cudgel. I think they'll be very reluctant to end that conflict and if that's the case, I think we're going to continue to see conflicts every time the carbon tax is increased."

— Simon Enoch, director of Saskatchewan Office for Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

"The carbon tax adds costs to the production of your food. And what that does is it can often increase the cost of Canadian food because this carbon tax isn't (implemented) elsewhere. ... We don't think increasing people's food bill is positive. But we'll figure out how we can work with our governments to meet the challenges of the day."

— Ryder Lee, CEO of Saskatchewan Cattleman's Association

"This decision today means not only that carbon pollution pricing can be driven federally, but so can the multiple other complimentary measures that are needed to push down our emissions and replace our power and fossil dependence with clean green renewable energy options and clean green renewable jobs.

Those measures could include regulations, innovative financing maps, targeted subsidies, and serious government investment in clean energy, efficiency initiatives, public transit, and electric vehicles, and posing an end to government subsidies and favouritism towards the oil industry."

— Mark Bigland-Pritchard, consultant for Climate Justice Saskatoon

— With files from Barb Pacholik

Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix