Farm groups sound off as Supreme Court rules in favour of federal carbon tax

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the federal government’s right to impose a price on carbon on provinces in a decision announced Thursday morning.

The decision passed in a 6-3 ruling. The “price of pollution” is set to increase to $170/tonne by 2030.

Agriculture producer groups and politicians opposed to the federal carbon taxation policy responded quickly.

Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS) president Todd Lewis says he’s disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling on challenges to federal jurisdiction over carbon taxation. Lewis says that Saskatchewan producers have been concerned about the impact of the federal carbon tax on their sustainability. “As producers, we don’t set our prices for our products, and can’t pass those extra costs along the value chain, so it comes right out of our pockets,” says Lewis.

APAS has estimated that the cost of producing an acre of wheat — including trucking, rail freight, and grain drying — will increase by $12.50 once the carbon tax is fulling implemented in 2030.

Lewis also points out that the federal carbon pricing policy still impacts the financial sustainability of producers, and that the needs of producers would have to be addressed by the federal government. “The Court has upheld the federal government’s jurisdiction, and now the government must act to resolve the outstanding issues faced by our industry.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is also unimpressed with the ruling. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada does not change our core conviction that the federal carbon tax is bad environmental policy, bad economic policy, and simply wrong,” says Moe. “While the Supreme Court has determined that Prime Minister Trudeau has the legal right to impose a carbon tax, it doesn’t mean he should, and it doesn’t make the carbon tax any less punitive for Saskatchewan people.”

In a statement from Premier Moe’s office, measures that Saskatchewan will take in the months ahead to protect people while addressing climate change will be announced.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s response was that “Albertans will continue to defend jobs, our economy, and our constitutional authority. We will continue to press our case challenging Bill C-69, the federal ‘No More Pipelines Law,’ which is currently before the Alberta Court of Appeal.”

Kenney goes on to say that the Supreme Court ignored the Alberta Court of Appeal’s warning and discovered a new federal power that erodes provincial jurisdiction and undermines the constitutional system.

Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has also expressed their strong disappointment. Gunter Jochum, president of WCWGA, says the Liberal government’s plans to reduce greenhouse gases through taxation is ill conceived.

“They are placing a huge financial burden on family farms,” say Jochum. “With the ongoing increases in the carbon-tax moving to $170/tonne by 2030, I am concerned that many family farms will be taxed so high that the next generation will leave the industry.”

The steps taken by grain farmers through no/low-till seeding, equipment improvements such as the use of GPS and drones, seed varieties and highly productive inputs, have resulted in increased carbon sequestration as well as increased crop production, WCWGA says.

World commodity prices that Canadian farmers sell their grain at will not offset the continuously increasing cost of the carbon tax, adds WCWGA.

Team Alberta (Alberta Barley, Canola, Pulse Growers, and Wheat Commission) also released a statement insisting that the Alberta government collaborate on the creation of a new Soil Carbon Enhancement Protocol, so that farmers can be compensated for the carbon they continue to sequester through soil stewardship.

Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole says they will repeal the carbon tax, citing that they will protect the environment and fight the reality of climate change, but won’t do it by making the poorest pay more.

O’Toole says that the Supreme Court recognized that policies related to emission reduction touch on federal and provincial jurisdiction but the Conservatives prefer a collaborative approach to tackling climate change to make progress, while still maintaining a strong economy.

“After promising not to, Justin Trudeau tripled the Carbon Tax, jeopardizing hundreds of thousands of jobs,” says O’Toole. “Under Trudeau, Canada’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the G-7 and we are experiencing the worst economic growth since the great depression. It’s impossible to understand why Trudeau would choose now, of all times, to put Canadians out of work.”

Marla Orenstein, director, natural resources at Canada West Foundation points out that today’s ruling enables Canadians to move forward with clarity and certainty. “Business, investors, and consumers now know what lies ahead,” she says. However, the task of reducing GHG emissions is enormous and requires more than just the  current policy to get there, she adds.

Brendan Byrne, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, says that contrary to what the Supreme Court says, the GFO sees this as a tax and that it’s not the best way to fight climate change, for farmers. “Farmers adopt new innovations every day that reduce their carbon footprint. It usually makes good environmental and economical sense to adopt these practices. To place a tax on not just grain drying, but also all for the goods and services, puts farmers in Ontario at a competitive disadvantage.”

Byrne’s sentiment towards farmers being price-takers echos that of WCWGA and that the federal government needs to recognize the indirect costs that farmers take on, directly impacts livelihoods.

“We are committed to doing our part to reduce greenhouse gases on the farm and are willing to look at workable, practical solutions to enhance our businesses, but this tax is not the way and, in fact, it impairs farmers’ ability to make ends meet,” Byrne says.

 

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