Danielle Smith condemns 'unfair' carbon tax regime, legal challenge possible

'I don't know if they have really thought about the impact of what they've done,' Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told Rebel News regarding the federal carbon tax. 'They’re just thinking politically.'

Danielle Smith condemns 'unfair' carbon tax regime, legal challenge possible
The Canadian Press / Todd Korol and The Canadian Press / Tijana Martin
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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith condemned Ottawa’s carbon tax regime on Thursday as inherently unfair.

“I don't know if they have really thought about the impact of what they've done,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith told Rebel News. “They’re just thinking politically.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to hear concerns from seven premiers, including Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, over the annual carbon tax hike tabled for April 1st. 

The leaders cite inflation and a high cost of living as reasons to scrap the tax but were denied the chance to testify at the Commons Standing Committee on Finance. They testified before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates on Wednesday and Thursday respectfully.

“Inflation and high interest rates have driven up prices on everything, from food to gas to housing,” said Smith. “Social services are under intense strain as more and more people reach out for help,” she added. “Many for the first time in their lives.”

The carbon tax is pegged for a 23% increase to $80 per ton of emissions.

But under no circumstances will the federal government pause the carbon tax despite ongoing concerns on inflation, Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday.

“They can develop their own approach here in B.C. Québec did the same,” he said. “We expect everyone to [have] the same level of ambition in the fight against climate change because that's fair.”

Smith previously condemned the federal government for not walking the walk, referencing Québec’s ‘special carbon tax deal.’

It currently costs Albertans 14.4 cents per litre of gas. That is expected to rise to 37.6 cents in 2030. 

Québec only pays 9 cents in carbon taxes per litre of gas. By 2030, it will rise to 22.5 cents.

"It's become quite clear that the price the federal government has set is not the same in every province," Smith told reporters last May 26th. 

"Québec is going to have a much lower carbon tax price than Alberta, and I suppose if the federal government were going to interfere in this matter, the courts would frown on differential pricing," she added.

Still, Trudeau blames Conservative premiers several times for “misleading” Canadians on the carbon tax.

“Eight out of 10 families across the country in federal backstop jurisdictions make more money with the Canada carbon rebate than it costs with the price on pollution,” he said. “It's basic math that the parliamentary budget officer has confirmed time and time again.”

In October, he announced a three-year tax freeze for oil used to heat residential buildings, as well as the doubling of the rural reprieve. He also expanded low-income grants for installing electric heat pumps in the Maritimes.

However, Alberta’s Premier did not buy the malarkey.

“I want to be generous. The [Trudeau Liberals are] struggling in Atlantic Canada and they thought [the carbon tax carve out] was the best way for [them] to try and win some of that support back,” Smith told the publication.

According to Abacus Data, Liberal support fell 6% between July and November, after the carbon tax first took effect in the region. The Conservatives made considerable gains (11%) in the months that followed.

The Liberals dismissed the allegations, claiming three in four heating oil furnaces are located outside that region. However, just 3% of Canadian households use heating oil to keep warm.

“They came through with an arbitrary change that disproportionately impacts areas where people tend to vote liberal, which is not a great way to pass policy,” Smith said Thursday.

“If you're going to make the case that you need to have national jurisdiction, then you need to apply the rules fairly across the board,” she added.

“That's the point that we're making. That is a point [Saskatchewan Premier] Scott Moe has made.”

“Do you believe the federal government's end goal is to bring Alberta’s economy to its knees as a have-not province?” Rebel asked the premier. “It's again an area where I'm seeking guidance on whether we can make a constitutional challenge on that as well.”

The publication asked the United Conservative government last May whether a potential re-litigation of the tax remained on the table. They did not directly respond to the question. 

In March 2021, the Supreme Court upheld the federal carbon tax in a 6-3 decision despite legal challenges from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. 

That October, Smith told CBC News a potential re-litigation of the Supreme Court ruling could be in the cards if presented with "new information," according to legal advice she received.

"We have new information. We have a war in Ukraine. We have a global world increase in prices. We have global instability. We have an affordability crisis," she said at the time.

A legal challenge of the carbon tax is one way to address affordability and inflation.

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