Doug Ford & Climate Change Politics: Political Tool or Political Fool?


"What they wanted was a political tool that they could use on the campaign trail. Now they have it, and they're campaigning. And the people of Ontario are paying the price [...] People want them to be paying attention to climate change, paying attention to their concerns. Not using government money to help another party run in another election" - Ontario NDP MPP Peter Tabuns

Doug Ford's constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax as a political is now turning him into a political fool.  On May 3, 2019, a majority led by the Honorable Chief Justice Robert G. Richards found not only that the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act ("Act") (colloquially referred to as "federal carbon tax") was constitutional but that it was constitutional in whole.  Worded differently, the highest judicial authority in the province of Saskatchewan found no single part of the Act to be unconstitutional.  Because of the decision came from an appellate Court, the decision is binding on all Courts in Canada, subject to the final authority of the Supreme Court of Canada.  Why Doug Ford continues to waste millions of dollars in a case that has already been lost by way of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal's decision is a mystery.

Even before the rather predictable outcome that was reached in Saskatchewan with respect to the federal carbon tax, there were many obvious indicators that Doug Ford's use of a million-dollar constitutional challenge would eventually turn him into a fool.  As discussed in a previous post, entitled "Doug Ford's Ludicrous Climate Change Politics", some of the more obvious indicators that a constitutional appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal had little to no merit include: 
  • Doug Ford Elected the Federal Carbon Tax: the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act does allow Canadian provinces to implement their own provincial climate action plan, so long as it allows Canada to meets its international obligations under the Paris Agreement.  By scrapping the previous liberal government's provincial climate action plan, and by failing to adopt an alternative provincial climate change plan for Ontario that meets our minimum national standards, does Doug Ford has effectively elected the Federal government's carbon tax.  Had he chosen not to elect the federal carbon tax, he would have filled the void he created by scrapping Kathleen Wynne's climate action plan through an elaborate climate action plan of his own.
  • "[A] carbon tax isn't the only way to fight climate change":  No one asserts that a carbon tax is the only way to fight climate change.  With respect to the federal carbon tax, however, the only relevant question to be asking is whether our constitution gives our federal government the power to legislate on matters of carbon emissions and climate change.  The fact that our federal government chooses a carbon tax over (e.g.) a cap-and-trade approach is of no material importance.  By making statements to the effect that "a carbon tax isn't the only way to fight climate change", Doug Ford is effectively misleading the public debate.
  • No "made-in-Ontario": If the province of Ontario cannot of its own, in the most literal sense of the expression, successfully fight global climate change, then climate change is not a matter that falls within provincial powers.  Climate change is so evidently more than inter-provincial in nature; it is transnational.  In different terms, climate change relates to planet earth, not the province of Ontario. A global problem requires a global response. Within the global climate change puzzle, Canada cannot properly determine or assert how or where it fits in the equation relative to other nations without a concerted and coordinated effort by and between federal and provincial governments and territories. 
  • Throwing Millions in Good Money After a Bad Cause: despite all of the above issues with Doug Ford's terrible provincial climate change politics, Doug Ford is blindly pursuing his anti-carbon tax rhetoric, an unfortunate part of which includes funneling to waste: $30 million in advertising; hundreds of thousands of dollars towards gas pump carbon tax stickers; and many more millions towards a constitutional Court challenge no chance of success.  How Doug Ford can then tell Ontarians that they are paying "a nickel more per liter" when he is throwing millions of dollars of good tax payer's money towards a bad climate change rhetoric and an already lost constitutional challenge is beyond puzzling.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna is soberingly right in calling the PCs messaging on the climate change issue as dishonest. For Doug Ford to state that the "people of Ontario deserve to know that their provincial government is on their side and fighting for them" in the face of such absurdly bad and plainly irrational provincial climate change politics is making a complete mockery of Ontarians.  What was first intended to be used as a political tool by Doug Ford has instead permanently and irreversibly turned him into a big fat political fool.  As Ontario NDP MPP Peter Tabuns astutely observes, 

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