What is the hearing about?
Carbon pollution knows no borders. Establishing minimum national price stringency standards for greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of national concern. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing climate change. Failure by one province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will harm the rest of the country.
In June 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act became law, ensuring that it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. The purpose of carbon pricing is to encourage the changes and innovation needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change.
The Province of Saskatchewan has asked the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan for its opinion on whether the Parliament of Canada has the constitutional authority to pass the Act.
Canada’s position is that the Act is constitutional. Parliament has authority to pass the Act for the peace, order, and good government of Canada, under section 91 of the Constitution Act, 1867 to address the cumulative dimensions of greenhouse gas emissions.
What does the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act do?
The Act implements a central component of Canada’s climate plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. The Pan-Canadian Framework includes a federal-provincial-territorial commitment to ensure carbon pricing applies in every province and territory in Canada. The Act fulfills Canada’s commitment to put in place a pricing mechanism on greenhouse gas emissions.
Canada worked with provinces and territories for two years to put a price on carbon pollution across the country. The Act implements a carbon pollution pricing system that will apply as a backstop in all provinces and territories that do not have a carbon pricing system of their own or that have a system that does not meet the federal benchmark.
More information about the federal carbon pollution pricing system is available on the Putting a price on pollution page.
What are the impacts of climate change in Canada?
The science is clear: Human activity is driving unprecedented changes in the earth’s climate, posing significant risks to the health and well-being of Canadians and communities and to the economy.
A recently published assessment—Canada’s Changing Climate Report—confirms that the effects of widespread warming are already evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to increase in the near future. A warmer climate will intensify some weather extremes, particularly in Western Canada. Extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense. This occurrence will increase the severity of heatwaves and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks. The seasonal availability of fresh water is also changing, with a higher risk of water-supply shortages in summer.
In many Prairie rivers, annual peak streamflow will be earlier in the spring due to earlier seasonal snowmelt. In rivers beginning in the mountains, summer streamflow is projected to decrease due to decreasing snow and ice cover in headwater regions.
Across the Prairies, growing seasons for warm-season crops could lengthen by weeks, by mid-century, and potentially by more than a month, by late century. However, summer droughts and low soil moisture are also projected to be more frequent and intense across the southern Prairies during summer.
What is the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change?
The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is Canada’s climate plan. It is the country’s overarching framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy, grow the economy, and build climate resilience. It includes commitments by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. All provinces and territories have joined Canada’s climate plan, except Saskatchewan.
More information on the plan is available on the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change page.
Jobs in Canada’s low-carbon economy are expected to grow in number. Already, more than 270,000 Canadians work in environmental and clean technology activities (2016). These activities also contributed around $60 billion (3 percent) to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016.
Canada’s commitment to clean growth will not only support our communities and create good jobs for the middle class, it will accelerate the shift to the low-carbon economy and protect our planet.
How will the Climate Action Incentive impact residents of Saskatchewan?
The Government of Canada has committed to return all direct proceeds collected in Saskatchewan under the federal pollution pricing backstop system through direct payments to individuals and families and investments to reduce emissions, save money, and create jobs.
Individuals in Saskatchewan will receive a Climate Action Incentive payment after filing their 2018 income tax and benefits return starting in early 2019. Climate Action Incentive payments in Saskatchewan will be calculated as follows for 2019:
- $305 for a single adult or the first adult in a couple.
- $152 for the second adult in a couple. Single parents will receive this amount for their first child.
- $76 for each child in the family (starting with the second child for single parents).
Under this approach, a Saskatchewan family of four will receive $609 in 2019. For residents of rural and small communities, the Climate Action Incentive payment will be supplemented by 10 percent in recognition of their increased energy needs and reduced access to alternative transportation options.
What are the next steps?
Depending on the outcome, within thirty days of the decision, Saskatchewan or Canada may appeal the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s decision with the Supreme Court of Canada.
In a separate proceeding, the Ontario Court of Appeal is also considering whether the Parliament of Canada has the constitutional authority to pass the Act.
The Ontario Court of Appeal heard the Ontario Reference on April 15 to 18, 2019.