The Court And The Carbon Tax
This is your Passage Daily newsletter for September 22. We’ve got the carbon tax, COVID-19 spikes and more on the agenda today.
I’m Jeremy Appel (@JeremyAppel1025) and I’ll be your guide through the day’s top news stories from a critical, progressive perspective. I’m a freelance journalist based in Medicine Hat, Alta., where I worked at the Medicine Hat News pre-COVID. I co-host two podcasts — Big Shiny Takes and the Forgotten Corner.
Supreme Court hearing on the carbon tax’s constitutionality begins
The Supreme Court of Canada began hearing three appeals of the federal carbon tax today. The legislation in question, which went into effect in 2019, requires provinces to impose some sort of carbon pricing regime — beginning at $10 a tonne and increasing each year until it reaches $50 a tonne in 2022 — or have one imposed on them by the feds.
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta are arguing that a federal price on carbon is unconstitutional, citing provincial jurisdiction on taxation and natural resources.
The Court of Appeals in Ontario and Saskatchewan previously ruled in favour of the feds, arguing that the carbon tax falls under the federal government’s responsibility to draft laws that encourage peace, order and good government, while Alberta’s ruled that it was federal overreach.
Stewart Elgie, director of the Environment Institute at the University of Ottawa, tells the Canadian Press that the ruling won’t be based on the merits of carbon taxation, but simply whether it’s in the federal government’s power to impose one on recalcitrant provinces.
The hearing, which continues tomorrow, will include submissions from four other provinces, the Assembly of First Nations, provincial utilities, environmental groups and unions.
Feds accept Ontario and New Brunswick plans, despite falling short on emissions reduction
In related news, on Monday night the feds announced that they’d accept Ontario and New Brunswick’s carbon pricing schemes, despite acknowledging that they’d insufficiently reduce emissions. An unnamed source with the federal government told the Globe and Mail that this was done to bolster the argument that the feds are making an effort to cooperate with the provinces.
Last year, Ontario’s own auditor general concluded that the province’s levy, which only applies to industrial emitters and imposes less of a burden on them than the federal plan, will reduce emissions by just one megatonne by 2030. Upon assuming power in 2018, Premier Doug Ford’s government scrapped Ontario’s cap-and-trade plan, a move the feds said would increase the province’s emissions by 25 to 30 megatonnes.
Environmentalist groups are, unsurprisingly, unimpressed. Here’s what some of them said in the National Post, of all places:
- “Doug Ford gutted Ontario’s climate plan, and the feds are allowing him to do it. Ontario is not pulling its weight in the climate fight … I think the feds should have fought tooth and nail to maintain tougher standards here.” – Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada
- “The federal government stated last week that it needs to act more aggressively to reduce GHG emissions and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Today’s approval of a weaker pricing system for industrial polluters in Ontario will do the opposite.” – Environmental Defence
As was the case with the government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, there’s a major gap between what Trudeau preaches and practices on the climate file.
COVID-19 restrictions ramped up in three most-populous provinces
After significant spikes in COVID-19 cases, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are re-imposing restrictions that were relaxed over the summer.
Ontario, which recorded 478 new COVID-19 cases today, has re-imposed restrictions on gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors for the next 28 days, in addition to imposing fines of up to $10,000 for those who violate these restrictions.
But it’s not just people choosing to attend oversized gatherings who are getting infected.
In Ottawa, racialized people make up 66 per cent of COVID-19 infections, according to the CBC. Just 25 per cent of Ottawa residents identify as being visible minorities. This disproportion is attributed to the amount of racialized people who live in high-density housing, and work in jobs where they’re more likely to come into contact with people who have tested positive.
In Quebec, Director of Public Health Horacio Arruda said that the second wave is already underway, with the province having 586 new infections yesterday, the largest increase in the nation. This came the day after restrictions were tightened in Montreal and Quebec City, with indoor gatherings limited to six people, or two families. Religious services and banquets will be limited to 25 attendees in the two major cities — a sharp reduction from the previous limit of 250 — and 50 elsewhere in the province. However, theatres with a capacity of up to 250 people will remain open as long as physical distancing is practised.
On Sunday night, British Columbia, which has had 366 new cases since September 18, announced a slew of new restrictions and fines for the restaurant industry. These included a requirement that establishments close by 11 p.m. unless they’re offering full meal service, and an expansion of a 10 p.m. cut-off of liquor sales to private events. Operators and organizers risk a $2,000 fine for violations.
Canada accused of violating domestic, international law by arming Turkey
Canada has been accused of violating the global Arms Trade Treaty for selling high-tech imaging and targeting systems to Turkey.
A new report from Project Ploughshares, a Waterloo-based disarmament group, details Canadian company LH3Harris Wescam’s sale of laser designators that paint targets for drones and bombs to Turkey, which stands accused of myriad human rights abuses in Syria, particularly in Kurdish-controlled areas.
The report notes that, “Canada’s export of Wescam sensors to Turkey poses a substantial risk of facilitating human suffering, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Canada has sent $327 million of this type of equipment to Turkey since 2017, although it’s unclear how much of that came from LH3Harris Wescam, which is based in Burlington, Ont.
Under amendments made to the federal Exports and Imports Permits Act in 2018, the Canadian government must determine if there’s a “substantial risk” that an exported product could be used “to commit or facilitate” a major human rights abuse, bringing federal legislation in line with the global Arms Trade Treaty, which Canada signed last year.
In the same spirit, a coalition of 39 civil society organizations is calling on Canada to halt armament exports to Saudi Arabia, the recipient of 75 per cent of Canada’s non-U.S. arms sales. A recent UN report named Canada as fuelling the Saudi assault on Yemen through selling the kingdom light armoured vehicles.
Coalition of co-op members raise $50K to stop sale of MEC
A group of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) members has raised more than $50,000 for a legal defence fund to stop the co-op’s sale to a U.S.-based private equity company, arguing that membership should have been consulted. MEC contends that they don’t need to consult membership as long as they have court approval to sell their assets.
The coalition, dubbed “Save MEC,” has retained Vancouver’s Victory Square law firm to represent them at the next court hearing on September 28. They also want to hold an emergency members meeting to vote out the board of directors who made the sale.
ICYMI: Halifax worker fired for mandatory self-isolation
The Halifax Workers’ Action Centre, a legal advocacy organization, says it has received several calls from workers inquiring about their rights as people return to work. Chief among them is asking whether you can be fired for quarantining.
The short answer is no, but Rank and File spoke to someone who did lose their job while self-isolating for two weeks.
Rory Carter was let go from her recently-acquired server job at a popular downtown Halifax restaurant, even though her vacation request to visit family in Saskatchewan, which explicitly included the mandatory two-week quarantine, was accepted.
Carter is in the process of filing a labour standards complaint against her former employer, with the assistance of the Halifax Workers’ Action Centre.
Carter told Rank and File, “This experience has taught me that some bosses simply don’t care about the person behind the position. We’re expendable. To some, our livelihood is just a position to be filled in accordance with the employers’ need.”
That does it for today’s Passage Daily. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s newsletter.