Saskatchewan’s ‘Drawing the Line’ on federal green laws. Here’s what it could mean
Tension between some Prairie provinces and the federal government erupted again on Tuesday as Saskatchewan released a report alleging the federal government’s climate change plans will cost the province $111 billion by 2035.
In a statement, Premier Scott Moe said his government would « take action to protect » families, businesses and jobs in the province.
« A strong Saskatchewan means a strong Canada, but we cannot allow the federal government to continue to encroach on our exclusive constitutional right to develop our natural resources and grow our economy, » he said. “We will defend and protect Saskatchewan jobs and our economic future.
These steps were outlined in a white paper accompanying the report. The document highlights the government’s plan to loosen its own autonomy, starting with a bill to be introduced this fall.
“We respect the Constitution that we have in this country. But (the bill) will most certainly reaffirm our provincial jurisdiction that we have and ultimately provide us with that opportunity and that certainty to move forward and develop some of the most productive industries on the planet,” Moe said.
The cost analysis, entitled Direct Compliance Costs of Federal Climate Policies in Saskatchewan, was prepared by the province’s Department of Finance. The analysis says it offers an estimate of what nine Ottawa climate change policies will cost the province if Saskatchewan were to comply.
Measures include the federal carbon tax, oil and gas methane reduction mandate, fertilizer use mandate, clean fuel regulations, and zero-emission vehicle mandate, among others.
The analysis explains how who in the province will bear the assumed costs, indicating that between 2023 and 2035, households will bear $24.5 billion of the $111 billion. The analysis indicates that the policies will cost the agricultural sector $32.6 billion, the transportation sector $19.8 billion and the upstream oil and gas industry $15.5 billion.
The white paper, titled “Drawing the line; stand up for Saskatchewan’s economic self-sufficiency,” begins with a statement from Moe.
He accuses the federal government of interfering in the province’s jurisdiction over its natural resources “under cover” of environmental regulations. « Federalism has been far from perfect in meeting the challenges Saskatchewan faces in realizing the province’s destiny and reaching its full economic potential, » the statement added.
The white paper says promised provincial legislation to “clarify and protect” constitutional rights and the pursuit of greater autonomy over immigration are two steps the province could take, along with other steps.
The province continues to experience a resource boom in potash, uranium and petroleum fueled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and global supply issues. In the first three months of the year, Saskatchewan pulled in nearly $2 billion from potash and oil, enough to balance the province’s budget for the first time since 2014-15.
Political tensions between Ottawa and the Prairies have recently been recurrent. Recently, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba each said they would ask their local police not to enforce a new federal plan to buy back 1,500 types of reclassified firearms under a mandatory program. .
The new premier of Alberta, Danielle Smith, took advantage of her first speech on Tuesday to also target the federal government.
« Together, we will stand up to defend the rights of Albertans under the Charter as well as to defend Alberta’s exclusive rights to our areas of provincial jurisdiction, which are clearly enumerated in the Constitution of Canada, » Smith said.
Smith also said she would draft sovereignty legislation, meant to push Ottawa back and see the province ignore federal laws and court rulings it deems against its interests.
But provincial governments that clash with the federal government often ignore the fact that residents of all provinces have a say in federal affairs, said Gerald Baier, associate professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. Premiers like to pretend they represent the wishes of their residents, but they’re actually speaking to the interests of the provincial government, Baier said, rather than the mere will of their constituents.
“There are voters in Saskatchewan who agree with the decisions of the federal government on some of these things,” he said, “maybe even a majority or a plurality of voters.”
Provinces cannot « pick and choose » which federal laws they want to follow, Baier said, and there are avenues they can take to challenge federal government measures.
There is no clear jurisdiction over the environment in Canada, it is split in several parts between the federal and provincial governments, he said.
Errol Mendes, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said Moe appears to be trying to figure out a « more palatable » version of Alberta’s proposed sovereignty law. Mendes also questioned Moe’s desire for more say in immigration matters.
« It echoes (Quebec Premier François) Legault’s request for immigration control when there are no linguistic reasons to require it and the province needs more coordination of nationwide immigration for an integrated system,” he wrote in an email.
In a joint response to the Saskatchewan government, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Ottawa is « committed » to working with all provinces and territories. to work for prosperity.
“This Friday, Saskatchewan families will receive their next Climate Action Incentive payment – worth $275.25 for a family of 4 – from the federal pollution pricing system,” says the press release. “Abandoning a program that puts money directly into people’s pockets does not improve the lives of Saskatchewanians.
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