Provinces take on feds over environmental politics | At Issue

provinces are not subsidiaries of the federal government we do not believe the federal government has the constitutional right to impose this carbon tax on Saskatchewan industries jobs and Families by issuing this reference today we're confirming that we believe that we have the jurisdiction to ensure that if there was a catastrophic diluted bitumen spill we have the ability to take steps to protect our economy and our environment carbon tax still two very bad words in Saskatchewan and pipeline these days a bad word in lots of parts of British Columbia that was premier Scot moe on Wednesday and premier John Horgan just this morning both going to court both hoping to prove to the federal government that their province is their business where does that leave one of Trudeau's favorite phrases that the economy and the environment go hand in hand we have a tissue for all of those kinds of questions Andrew Coyne is in Toronto tonight Chantal a bear is in Montreal and Chachi curl joins us from Vancouver good to see everybody okay so interesting the way these two stories are connected and how they are playing out and will likely not have the same kind of outcome Chantal let's start with you when we hear premier Moe from Saskatchewan saying that provinces are not subsidiaries of the federal government what does that tell you about sort of the state of federal-provincial relations right now well is stating the obvious as stated by the Supreme Court and the dear ruling is that being said his court challenge is of importance for instance to the Conservatives who are buying for power in Ontario and for the Conservatives who are hoping to take power in Alberta ie there is more than one province that wants to test this this is just the first test and it's going to matter for the federal capacity to impose that carbon tax on provinces that do not want to put their own price or a price that corresponds to the federal requirement on carbon Andrew how does that relate to the reference that John Horgan put forward today it's it is interesting as you say that you have both happen at the same time you have one province Saskatchewan saying of course the federal government can legislate on pipelines but it can't legislate on carbon taxes the government of BC saying of course it can legislate on carbon taxes but it can't possibly legislate on pipelines and if if both of them have their way then rather than doing both a carbon tax and a pipeline is the federal government would prefer will do neither which would be such a Canadian result you know I don't mind I don't mind if I don't get what I want just as long as I can keep you from getting what you want look you know of course the problems aren't subsidiaries of the federal government but the federal government is not a subsidiaries of the provinces either it has legitimate jurisdiction I suspect the courts will find in both these cases it does in the end but we'll waste a lot of time in the process well and I wonder if that's not sort of the point certainly in the case of BC it must be Shachi that the Premier's just trying to delay things in hopes that the project will go away well look to the extent that too many people in many parts of the country this may look like a bunch of recalcitrant Yahoo's trying to play to their political bases because it works and and and run the clock down the implications for both of these decisions are actually quite important in BC a negative ruling from the courts if the courts come back and say British Columbia you don't have the jurisdiction what that signals to the people of British Columbia the vast majority of whom want to actually see the BC government the Oregon government put its tools down and walk away in the event that the courts rule against the BC government they have no appetite for a constitutional bun fight with the rest of the country it actually then changes the debate and the conversation from one about pipelines as you mentioned bad word at the beginning of this little chat to an even worse word tankers what British Columbians really want to hear about from the provincial government and the other parties here is what is the plan for spill prevention and response at sea that is the sticking point now in Saskatchewan it's not just about jurisdiction does the federal government have jurisdiction to impose a carbon tax but the way in which it happens and of course the Saskatchewan government is arguing but they already know from the Manitoba decision that the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a carbon tax it's just the way they do it okay Chantal let me hear you weigh in on the BC part of it and and how how real that is and what that is actually about do you think well it is real in the sense that if the company can do Morgan and once certainty as to it its capacity to move oil to that pipeline and the quantity of oil that it's it would be expanding the pipeline for that certainty from the legal standpoint is not going to be coming by May 31st no it's going to take someone said more than a month yes for sure more than a month and possibly longer than a year if this goes to the Supreme Court so if what Kinder Morgan was looking for with certainty that it was building or expanding a pipeline for its product it's not going to get that no matter what anyone says about the federal government has jurisdiction you just don't know so the uncertainty will be remaining and to add a word about the Saskatchewan thing even if the pipeline did get built tomorrow it would not change the fact that Saskatchewan is going to court over the carbon tax and that other conservative parties if they were in power would like to go to court one is not contingent on the other you can see the beginning of an exit ramp though for the BC government in this reference in the in the third of the three questions they're asking so the first two are you know do we have generally this kind of legislative competence to legislate on environmental matters secondly can we apply it to inter provincial pipelines and the courts will probably give a yes but on that but the third one is what happens if there's legislation that that basically sets down the rules for this and just this provincial legislation you have to give way yes it does I'm sure the courts will rule and that's where this pending federal legislation may come into play that it actually lays down those rules in the courts safe now the the flying they went there is the the reference question asks about existing federal legislation so there'll be I guess a question of you know when does this legislation come in the federal legislation but they would need to move pretty quickly with that but I you know I don't know what what the timeline is for them but as Chantal says if May 31st is this drop-dead date some way for Kinder Morgan that we'll have to start moving very very quickly to let's be clear a serious court and I the BC Court of Appeal is a serious court well here a reference and pronounce on it by May 31st that's not gonna happen yeah but the legislation could be tabled before that that's right and the feds can bring in what they've also talked about doing which is some kind of financial backstop what I would hope is it's it's one that's kind of contingent in other words if the pipeline is delayed or you know beyond endurance then we'll compensate you rather than giving the money upfront and I think that would that would give Kinder Morgan the kind of assurance it can it can properly require it there's we want to prevent Kinder Morgan from gaming this at the same time but I think they have a legitimate issue on that okay so after you wanted any yeah and to that point I think this is now almost going a little bit beyond Kinder Morgan this this may transcend Kinder Morgan they have said that they'll walk away or they're they're very close to walking away but into that vacuum has come and flown the the governments of Alberta and and the Government of Canada so you know when Justin Trudeau talks about this pipeline will be built this is now no longer again about what what Kinder Morgan does and I think to andrew's point they they have played this quite astutely quite smartly they may simply walk away leaving Canadian Taxpayers holding the bill on this and again it doesn't solve the problem or the sticking point in British Columbia for three-quarters of them even those who who support this project they're very very worried about that coastline issue and we saw a little bit of movement today with that letter from mr. McKenna to John Horgan the premier of BC saying look we'll work with you a little bit more on this that is the direction Ottawa needs to be moving in in order to finally find some end point to this conflict I just wonder where this leaves though the federal government who as I said off the top there the prime minister talking always about how you can balance the economy and the environment and I just want to show people quickly what with the Parliamentary Budget Officer released this week about the cost of carbon taxes saying that it will cost 10 billion dollars off the GDP by 2022 so I mean that to me I don't know does that mean you'll have to have the pipeline built or does it mean that you can't actually balance those two things Chantal I'm not sure that it means you need the pipeline built although you want the strongest economy that you can and possibly a healthier oil industry goes in that direction but with the Parliamentary Budget Officer also said this that you could mitigate the impact of the carbon tax on the economy depending on how government handle the revenue from that packet and whether they use it structurally or they use it just to send you a check so that you can go and say I got my money back from the carbon tax so this 10 billion dollars is not the last word it's kind of an invitation to structure it intelligently yeah it's it's you know if they as Chantal says if they just give the money back as a kind of a lump sum then yeah you get this a half a percentage point which is not the end of the world to begin with a half a percentage point off of GDP if they use it to cut tax rates then it then that impact the PBO calculates is reduced to about one tenth of one percent of GDP which would people wouldn't even notice so it does place a premium on doing the the the policy right but look we have a slim to none chance at this point of meeting our 2030 Paris Accord commitments the slimmin thing is if we do it by carbon pricing if we don't do carbon pricing then it's not we're not going to get anywhere near there and we're only gonna get carbon pricing if we build that pipeline about 10 seconds Shachi last word okay at the end of the day for Canadians they're not necessarily paying attention to to cost to GDP or to economic growth but where the vulnerability for this government is if Canadians as they are pumping gas in this summer of escalating gas prices are now more aware of the impact of carbon pricing on that it's something that sticks in their mind it makes the party vulnerable on that promise of affordability and making life easier for the middle class that they campaigned on as we march towards an election and of course it also makes them a little bit vulnerable on that promise to steward and and keep the economy growing well it does matter what the real details are here it matters the perception of it and what the opposition does with it and they have the potential to have a field day with it okay good talk everybody thank you for being here and good news if you want more of us talking at issue is also a podcast extra content and the main panel every week and this week's bonus topic Kathleen Wynne says it's a disagreement between accountants Ontario's Auditor General says it's a five billion dollar fib what's the difference find out iTunes and a major podcast app our website CBC News CA slashed the national

Maurice Vega

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