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Court rejects Ontario challenge to Canada carbon tax

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Ottawa (AFP)

Ontario's highest court on Friday rejected the Canadian province's challenge of a federal carbon levy, in a victory for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over critics of his climate policies.

Ontario Court of Appeal Chief Justice George Strathy said in the split decision that the measure was "constitutional."

"Parliament has determined that atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases causes climate changes that pose an existential threat to human civilization and the global ecosystem," he said.

"The need for a collective approach to a matter of national concern, and the risk of non-participation by one or more provinces, permits Canada to adopt minimum national standards to reduce GHG emissions."

The levy was imposed in April on four provinces that haven't fallen in line with Trudeau's emissions reduction strategy, starting at Can$20 (US$15), and rising incrementally to Can$50 per ton of emissions.

Six others were initially exempt because each had come up with their own carbon tax or cap-and-trade system to help Canada meet its Paris Agreement target of reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

In court, lawyers for Ontario argued that the federal measure intruded on provincial jurisdiction -- the environment -- and would lead to federal intrusion on all aspects of peoples' lives, including where they lived or their choice of transportation.

Federal lawyers said the act was a legitimate response to potentially catastrophic global warming.

Alberta will soon join Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan on the list of recusants, after its new government this month scrapped its own provincial carbon tax and vowed to fight the federal backstop.

Saskatchewan province -- with the backing of New Brunswick -- went to court last month to try to block the federal levy but lost.

It has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which could hear the case in December -- two months after the next federal election in which climate policies are sure to be hotly debated.

Manitoba has also launched a separate legal challenge.

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