Home Canadian News Court rejects Ford government’s bid to toss cap-and-trade lawsuit

Court rejects Ford government’s bid to toss cap-and-trade lawsuit

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The Ford government is heading to court to defend its cancellation of the province’s cap-and-trade program after losing a bid to toss the lawsuit.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled Friday that Greenpeace Canada’s legal challenge of a cabinet regulation issued last July gutting the pollution credit program can proceed, setting April 1 as the hearing date.
Greenpeace is suing the government for allegedly failing to adequately consult with Ontarians about the regulation, as required under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR).
The Ford government said it didn’t require the public consultation period because the 2018 election was “substantially equivalent,” with the Progressive Conservatives campaigning to end cap-and-trade if elected. It relied on a section of the EBR granting the relevant minister the authority to bypass the public consultation requirement if the public had a similar opportunity to weigh-in on the proposed regulation.
Earlier this month, the province filed for the lawsuit to be dismissed because the regulation is no longer in force, with the Tories successfully passing legislation repealing the cap-and-trade system weeks after.
However, Ontario Superior Court Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco said the decision in the case will have a “practical effect” by deciding the scope of the ministerial exemption under the EBR.
“Both parties will benefit if there is clarity around the exemption as it is presently worded,” reads Marrocco’s ruling.
“That is a useful purpose and seems to be the most important consideration affecting the decision to allow the application to proceed, even if it is found to be moot.”
He added that it’s possible the government could use the same justification in relation to another policy decision.
Greenpeace senior energy strategist Keith Stewart said the lawsuit was filed to ensure the Ford government couldn’t again use this line of reasoning to circumvent “due process” and deny Ontarians the right to comment.
“Governments are still bound by the rule of law, and this government acted unlawfully [in] ramming through the closure of the cap and trade market,” he told iPolitics.
“We want to make sure that they don’t do this again, and that future governments don’t do this again by saying we won an election, so we can do whatever we want.”
The Ford government’s recent decision to withdraw a controversial section of omnibus legislation that could grant municipalities the authority to bypass provincial planning and conservation laws like the Greenbelt Act shows that “public pressure can make a difference,” Stewart said.
iPolitics reached out to the office of Attorney General Caroline Mulroney for comment, but spokesperson Brian Gray said it “would be inappropriate to comment” as the matter is before the courts.
Stewart argued that the Tories intended to quickly push through the regulation gutting the cap-and-trade system so people wouldn’t have a “chance to react.” A court ruling in Greenpeace’s favour, he added, would send a “powerful message” to the Ford government that it couldn’t do this again.