Wednesday, January 03, 2024

Saskatchewan thumbs its nose at Canada's carbon tax

I guess I have to make some sort of comment on Saskatchewan's ill-advised move to stop collecting and remitting to Ottawa the federal carbon tax in its natural gas bills.

Actually, when I say Saskatchewan, what I really mean is Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. Because Moe has personally "instructed" SaskEnergy (the provincial gas utility) to stop collecting the carbon charge element of its bills to residential customers as of the beginning of 2024, and for some reason the utility went along with it. Moe's justification is that it's "not fair" that the federal Liberals have given a carbon tax break to heating oil users in Atlantic Canada, and not to Saskatchewanians (is that really the demonym?)

While I admit that the Liberal move was ridiculous and inexcusable (although for very different reasons than Moe would probably list), heating oil is a very different beast from natural gas, and calling it "not fair" just sounds puerile and adolescent. Oh, and also, unilaterally not paying the tax to the feds - a tax, incidentally, that the courts have repeatedly ruled it is perfectly within its rights to levy - is highly illegal.

The issue won't come to a head until the end of February, the due date for paying over January's levy. At that point, though, officers of SaskEnergy will be officially breaking federal law and could face hefty fines or even jail time for failing to remit the tax, notwithstanding the series of iffy legal moves Saskatchewan has made to shift the responsibility and supposedly protect the utility's executives. 

Moe calls Saskatchewan's violation of federal law "unfortunate". Well, I sincerely hope it proves extremely unfortunate for the right-wing populist. Even co-populist Danielle Smith in Alberta stopped short of outright law-breaking with her equally iffy Alberta Sovereignty Act, however much tub-thumping she engages in.

This is legal nonsense on a par with the predilection of the current crop of populists for using the "notwithstanding clause" to defy the Canadian Constitution (which I have railed against elsewhere), or possibly even worse. This is a challenge to the constitutional order of the country, and to the rule of law. It cannot be allowed to proceed.

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