In April 2018 the government of Saskatchewan decided to challenge the federal government’s jurisdiction in regard to climate action measures, arguing its Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act reaches beyond federal powers. To date, the governments of Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick are intervening in support of Saskatchewan while the government of BC is supporting the federal government.
In co-operation with several civil society organizations, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has submitted a joint application to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal seeking Intervenor status in order to support the federal government’s constitutional right to enact legislation to address climate change.
“As farmers, we depend on the climate to make our living. No sector of the economy is more vulnerable to climate change than agriculture. Our crops and animals require a predictable range of temperatures and precipitation to survive and thrive. Our buildings, equipment and infrastructure are exposed to the elements and are at risk when severe weather hits,” said Hanley area grain farmer, Cam Goff, NFU 1st Vice President (Policy). “As individuals, we can do our best to limit our emissions and minimize our risks, but alone we cannot prevent climate change. This is why our members voted overwhelmingly in favour of this court intervention to support federal jurisdiction over climate change policy.”
“Farmers are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine when it comes to climate change, but sooner or later everyone will come to understand that the economy is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the environment,” added Stewart Wells, NFU 2nd Vice-President (Operations) of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
“The implementation of an effective national climate change policy is the challenge of our generation. There are parallels between this court case on climate action jurisdiction and the struggle to establish Medicare and the process by which our Supply Management system was created. All three require a common baseline foundation while providing for provincial autonomy in designing the program specifics,” noted Goff. “With climate change, we require co-operation to extend to the international arena too. Canada has committed to the Paris Accord, which requires us to act and do our part in global efforts to prevent climate catastrophe.”
This case is important for all Canadians. The NFU recognizes that coordinated action across Canada is needed for climate change action to be effective. By setting a national baseline for greenhouse gas emissions pricing the federal government makes it possible for all provinces to create the type of action that is best suited to their own circumstances without the risk of their neighbours undercutting their efforts.
Goff summed up by saying “The NFU is seeking Intervenor status as a way to do our part to prevent a few provinces from hamstringing federal efforts to meet our international and national climate change obligations.”