Doug Ford was elected premier of Ontario armed with a platform that was long on bluster – none louder, of course, than his simplistic opposition to his Liberal predecessor’s cap-and-trade scheme for reducing carbon emissions.
The Ford government has already begun winding down the program, and it vows not to replace what it considers to be a “wasteful tax regime" with anything similar.
Mr. Ford has also now announced that Ontario is formally supporting Saskatchewan’s legal challenge to the federal law under which Ottawa can impose a carbon tax on provinces and territories that refuse to implement their own version.
We welcome this news. If the legal challenge is successful, well, so be it. It will provide clarity on the issue, even if it comes at the expense of what is the most effective carbon-reduction weapon in any provincial government’s arsenal.
But there is good reason to believe the challenge will fail. Two provinces, Manitoba and New Brunswick, have declined to join the Saskatchewan challenge, because the consensus among legal experts is that Ottawa is on solid legal footing.
Mr. Ford is taking a big political risk. If the challenge fails, as many expect it will, he will have effectively helped to reinforce the validity of the Trudeau government’s carbon-pricing law.
And if Mr. Ford still goes on to refuse to implement a carbon tax in Ontario, he could well end up having to sit by and watch as Ottawa does it for him, collects the money and then returns it with great political fanfare to the people of his province, just as it has promised to do. There is little the Trudeau government would more enjoy than sending a $200 cheque to every Ontario household in an election year.
Politically speaking, Mr. Ford would be better off pursuing a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Among other ways he could return the revenues to Ontarians, one would be as support for industries that are hurt by new U.S. trade tariffs.
But that would require foresight and planning, and Mr. Ford prefers bluster. Too bad for him.