The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) recently delivered its judgment on the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GGPPA). In particular, the SCC heard an appeal from the Provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan, where the courts of appeal upheld GGPPA as constitutional, and the Province of British Columbia, who had intervened in the Court of Appeal of Alberta who held GGPPA as unconstitutional.
In a six to three majority decision, the SCC found that the GGPPA is constitutional. The SCC upheld Parliament’s power to enact legislation establishing minimum national standards of price stringency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the peace, order and good government (POGG) clause of section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner, writing for the majority, said that if Parliament were unable to constitutionally address the matter at a national level, it may result in irreversible consequences for the environment, for human health and safety, and the economy.
The SCC also addressed the validity of levies under the GGPPA as regulatory charges. In paragraphs 212 to 219, the SCC held that the levies imposed under GGPPA cannot be characterized as taxes; rather, they are regulatory charges whose purpose is to advance the GGPPA’s regulatory purpose by altering behavior.