Carbon tax battle costing Saskatchewan ‘hundreds of thousands’ of dollars

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SASKATOON, S.K. – Saskatchewan’s justice minister figures the province’s court battle against the federal carbon tax is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars but that it’s worth it.

Don Morgan said it’s difficult to calculate the exact amount since the province is relying on a mix of in-house and outside lawyers.

The price tag includes court filings, travel expenses and other out-of-pocket costs.

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“The importance of trying to determine federal and provincial _ where the lines are _ is important enough that we’re more than willing to spend the money to try and get clear resolution and clear answers to where we need to be,” Morgan said Tuesday.

Morgan hosted a meeting in Saskatoon with justice ministers and their legal teams from Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta to strategize their legal arguments against Ottawa’s carbon levy.

Saskatchewan argues the federally-imposed tax on consumers is unconstitutional but lost its case in a 3-2 split decision in its Appeal Court. The province appealed to the Supreme Court and has a tentative hearing date set for December.

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The federal carbon tax currently applies in Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Manitoba because those provinces did not implement taxes of their own.

Ontario lost a challenge in its top court last month.

Alberta, which killed the federal tax earlier this year, is to have the levy imposed in January. It has also filed a legal challenge.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer said his government is trying to catch up with Saskatchewan and Ontario and it’s important for the ministers to compare notes.

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He wants the provinces to work together so that the matter is heard by the Supreme Court in a “co-ordinated and thoughtful way.”

Schweitzer said he would like Alberta’s case heard quickly by the province’s Appeal Court, so the Supreme Court has the opportunity to consider the province’s evidence.

“We’re trying to work out (the) strategy to make sure each province can bring forward its strongest case to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said his government has until August to file a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It’s my understanding that (Saskatchewan) may be looking to have some of the cases consolidated so that … the Supreme Court’s hearing more than one at a time,” said Downey.

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He said there are pros and cons about presenting the cases together, but wouldn’t comment on his government’s preference or strategy.

“From what I understand Saskatchewan is asking for an extension or for more time.”

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