Alberta is committed to a federal carbon tax challenge. But it could cost Jason Kenney, says political scientist

CALGARY—As a federal carbon tax on Alberta looms nearer, Premier Jason Kenney says the province will forge ahead with its court challenge to fight it.

On Friday evening, Kenney posted to social media that the province would be making the move alongside Saskatchewan and Ontario, commenting that the levy would be “punishing” people for heating their homes and filling up on gas.

His Twitter post was accompanied with a news article that said Ontario would also be going ahead with their Supreme Court appeal.

In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal, along with Saskatchewan’s top court, ruled that the feds’ Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act is constitutional. Both provinces have appealed the respective decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Alberta previously had a provincial level carbon tax, but it was scrapped shortly after the United Conservative government was elected in the spring, as part of their campaign promise.

Then in June, the federal government said it would be slapping the province with its own carbon tax starting on Jan. 1, 2020. It would see Albertans going back to paying $20 per tonne of CO2, and then, by April 2020, that price would jump to $30 per tonne of CO2. It’s expected to climb by $10 per year after that, until it hits $50 per tonne in 2022.

Albertans will feel the federal levy most while fuelling at the pumps and on their home heating bills. According to the federal government, most of the fuel charge in Alberta will be returned directly to eligible individuals and families residing in Alberta through Climate Action Incentive payments.

In August, Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said in a news release that the province would be filing a statement of facts in the province’s Court of Appeal “to challenge the constitutionality of the imposition of a federal carbon tax on Albertans.”

But Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, said it’s unlikely the challenge will succeed.

“It’s more about making a political statement than it is about believing there’s a real chance of victory here,” Williams said.

She said it’s part of a bigger narrative from Kenney, which is that the provincial government is protecting the interests of Albertans from a federal government that doesn’t understand the province’s needs and concerns.

But she said this move could turn on its head if, over the course of Kenney’s term, he does not manage to deliver on his promises to improve Alberta’s economy.

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“If he’s not successful in getting the investment of the jobs that he’s promised, that’s going to be the big price. And if it seemed that he perhaps didn’t get some benefits because he was unwilling to work with the federal government, again (that) might have a price,” Williams said.

“That’s the kind of thing that could be damaging in terms of the effort to advocate for Alberta’s interests, and it could be something that costs him the next election.”

With files from Hamdi Issawi and Kieran Leavitt.

Amy Tucker

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