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Three courts, Three rulings: Carbon tax seen differently in different courts

Last Updated Feb 25, 2020 at 1:54 pm MDT

A dump truck works near the Syncrude oil sands extraction facility near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. The parliamentary budget office says most Canadian households will receive more money back from the federal government's carbon-tax scheme than it will cost them. The assertion is contained in a report published by the PBO this morning, nearly four months after a majority of Canadian voters cast their ballots in favour of parties that favoured a carbon tax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – Legal experts say rulings from provincial Appeal Courts on the federal carbon tax aren’t about the tax itself, but rather the government’s legal grounds for it.

The Alberta Court ruled on Monday that the tax is unconstitutional, but Ontario and Saskatchewan backed the levy in decisions last year.

WATCH: A blow for the federal carbon tax in Alberta

University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams says the judgments differ because each court understood differently what the law is trying to do.

He says the Alberta judges took its goal to be regulating greenhouse gases overall, a much broader goal, rather than just setting a national price on carbon.

Professor David Wright at the University of Calgary says the tax law relies on a little-used section of the Constitution that judges are now grappling with.

Both agree that Ottawa has plenty of other ways to bring in a carbon tax if the Supreme Court rules against it.