Michael McLeod, MP for the Northwest Territories said last week he welcomed the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent ruling which upheld the constitutionality of the federal government’s carbon tax.
In 2018, the federal government passed the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. The legislation required provinces and territories to introduce a carbon gas pricing systems to combat climate change by Jan. 1, 2019.
Provinces and territories also had the option of adopt carbon pricing imposed by the federal government.
The act was passed in response to Canada’s pledged commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement.
But jurisdictions including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, have challenged the constitutionality of the act. They say the act goes against the division of powers and overrides provincial control over natural resources.
Some provinces have argued that they already have their own climate-related policies to fight climate change and charge the federal government with overreach when it comes to implementing a national carbon tax.
Majority ruling on carbon tax
In a 6-3 decision on March 25, however, the majority ruling was that the carbon tax plans by the national government is constitutional.
McLeod welcomed the decision this week and said the issue is a continued pressing one for the NWT. He said with rising heat levels, the issue requires national leadership.
“Climate change is significant in the North and it is something I hear about on a regular basis where people are very concerned about what is happening,” he said. “There is lots of change happening that we have not seen in my life time and which have changed a lot of things.”
McLeod said that climate change is affecting land, water and the temperatures that northerners have long expected. But it is also changing Indigenous people and culture, too.
“It has had a lot of impact on traditional knowledge and impact on relationships between elders and youth,” McLeod explained. “Now a lot of elders can’t talk about where the best places are to hunt or the safest areas to cross the river while it is forming,”
McLeod said because of the impacts of climate change between elders and youth and descriptions of the land patterns that have to be explained, terminologies fall out of use. Hence a national carbon tax is key to combatting the disruptions that climate change is presenting the revival and use of Indigenous language in the North, he said.
McLeod was asked about neighbouring jurisdictions like Alberta and Saskatchewan who posed constitutional challenges to the federal government’s carbon pricing efforts.
“We don’t follow their lead and in the territories it is different because we want to do our part to fight against climate change,” he said. “Unlike Premier Kenney or in Saskatchewan, who want to be free to pollute and want to go back to that, the GNWT has worked well with the federal government to put a price on carbon and have a pricing system.
During his last term, McLeod has faced pressure to support a Green New Deal from Yellowknife councillors and NWT MLAS.
He has supported an opposition motion for his government to introduce a Green New Deal.
Ecology North stated in its March 30 newsletter that the ruling was positive for the North.
“This decision will protect all future climate action at the national level and, importantly, it will prevent future legal challenges from provinces,” stated the newsletter. “But the carbon pricing policy itself is far from the aggressive action we desperately need.”
NNSL Media reached out to the GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources on March 26 for a reaction to the ruling. Responses were not forthcoming by press time by end of week.