Peter Tabuns MPP, Toronto-Danforth

Government of Ontario

Court rules Ontario broke law when scrapping cap-and-trade system

Published on November 14, 2019

An Ontario court says Premier Doug Ford’s government broke the law when it scrapped the province’s cap-and-trade system but even the groups who launched the case concede the finding won’t bring the program back.

The panel was divided on the request for the declaration against the government, with one judge saying it was warranted, another saying there was no point after the program was scrapped, and the third refusing to offer an opinion.

The supportive voice came from Justice David Corbett, who wrote the province had a legal duty to consult with Ontarians before cancelling the program.

“The government’s recent election did not relieve it from its obligation to follow the requirements set out in the (Environmental Bill of Rights), a valid Ontario law,” he wrote.

Greenpeace said the Bill of Rights, legislation unique to Ontario, ensures the province’s residents have the right to a 30-day consultation process on environmentally significant regulations and legislation.

In its application for judicial review last year, the group alleged the province’s decision to bypass mandatory notice and consultation was “unreasonable and incorrect, procedurally unfair, and therefore unlawful.”

Ontario’s cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting limits on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit.

If companies exceeded those limits, they had to buy allowances at quarterly auctions or from other companies that came in under their caps.

Premier Doug Ford made good on an election promise to scrap the system last year shortly after taking office.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek thanked the court for dismissing the case.

“Putting an end to the cap and trade program removed a burden from Ontario businesses, allowing them to grow, create jobs and compete around the world,” he said in a statement.

NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns said the court case was a blow for the Ford government and shows the Tories aren’t above the law.