By Connor Lynch
TORONTO — Cap-and-trade isn’t coming back. But a legal challenge to the Ford government’s cancellation of the controversial program could actually succeed, according to Toronto environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie.
Greenpeace Canada filed an application for judicial review on Sept. 11, 2018. The environmental group is arguing that the Ontario government failed to consult the people of Ontario before passing legislation cancelling the contentious program. Cap-and-trade was particularly unpopular in farm country, where it would mean added costs for farmers with no opportunity to recoup them, and long-promised credits for farmers failed to materialize.
Greenpeace is no stranger to controversy, and has been accused in the past of playing fast and loose with the facts to further its agenda. Co-founder Patrick Moore left the organization in the 1980s, telling the Miami Herald in 2005 that: “The environmental movement had abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism.”
But Greenpeace isn’t just throwing its weight around here, Gillespie said. The appeal is a thoughtful and meaningful challenge, even if it looks to be an uphill battle, he said. “I think it’s very logically motivated, and very well-intentioned,” he said.
But the law it invokes grants the government quite a bit of discretion. Though Greenpeace contends that the Ford government failed to consult Ontarians because it never posted a public notice requesting comment on the bill for a minimum of 30 days, the law allows for other forms of consultation.
That can include an election race, Gillespie said. Scrapping the carbon tax was an early promise of the Ford government, and that might be sufficient to satisfy its requirement for public consultation. Add into the mix an extreme reluctance for judges to reverse government’s decisions, something Gillespie said he’s seen many times, and the application could well go nowhere.
Even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t mean cap-and-trade is back. It would only result in the cancellation being suspended until the government finished with consultation. In fact, the Ford government posted a notice of 30-days consultation on the bill, which is open until Oct. 11.