Martin Regg Cohn: Doug Ford reveals his hypocrisy with a local weather change lawsuit that’s a misplaced trigger

A gaggle of idealistic and devoted environmental activists is suing Doug Ford’s Tories for failing to guard them from future local weather catastrophe.

They’ve sturdy arguments that nobody ought to ignore.

However they’ve a weak case.

Make no mistake, these younger persons are on the facet of proper, fact and justice. They’ve confirmed their arguments persuasively and uncovered the chapter of the premier’s environmental evasions.

By rights, Superior Courtroom Justice Marie-Andrée Vermette ought to throw the ebook on the Ontario authorities for dereliction of responsibility.

However that might be a deeply fallacious abrogation of democracy.

We don’t elect judges to make authorities coverage. We elect governments to make the legal guidelines.

If governments make dangerous legal guidelines, that’s not the identical as breaking legal guidelines. If voters need higher legal guidelines, they’ll throw the bums out and usher in higher legislators to proper these wrongs, rewrite these legal guidelines, undo the injury.

However a court-ordered redo? The ultimate verdict ought to are available in elections when voters render judgment — not judges.

The seven younger individuals who confirmed up in court docket this month have been introduced collectively by the environmental regulation group EcoJustice, which is attempting to win by way of litigation what it misplaced in elections. If at first you don’t succeed within the court docket of public opinion (election of 2018), and fail once more a second time (2022), strive once more within the court docket of regulation.

The litigants appear proper out of central casting — devoted, idealistic and indefatigable. If this seems like a publicity stunt dressed up as a constitution problem, it’s additionally a teachable second.

“On a world scale, this case is significant for litigation in every single place,” mentioned Shaelyn Wabegijig, a 25-year-old masters scholar from Mnjikanang (Rama) First Nation. “It’s setting an excellent precedent for different people who find themselves holding their governments accountable.”

However accountability is within the eye of the beholder — and voter.

EcoJustice is attempting to influence the decide to second-guess the premier for failing to hold out his duties. In actual fact, the Ford authorities didn’t break a promise or return on its phrase.

On the contrary, the Progressive Conservatives did precisely what they mentioned they’d do: They undermined environmental safety.

Their sin shouldn’t be a lot a false promise however a flawed premise.

In 2016, two years after profitable a majority mandate, the Liberal authorities of then-premier Kathleen Wynne introduced in carbon pricing with a “cap and commerce” system to scale back emissions. Thus far, so good — till the Liberals misplaced the subsequent election.

Ford drummed up opposition to what he falsely referred to as a “job-killing carbon tax.” It wasn’t, nevertheless it labored, and his PCs received energy on a pretext.

Armed along with his personal election mandate, Ford enacted the “Cap and Commerce Cancellation Act” in 2018. Sarcastically, by eviscerating the Liberal carbon pricing plan, he robotically triggered a brand new federal carbon tax by default — a backstop for provinces that weren’t doing their fair proportion to scale back emissions.

At which level Ford himself went to court docket, budgeting $30 million to problem the constitutionality of the federal levy. However because the Supreme Courtroom concluded, he had no enterprise butting heads with Ottawa on a carbon tax for which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had received his personal clear electoral mandate.

Just like the litigants, I want Ontario would go additional. The issue is that voters haven’t purchased into harder measures.

On the finish of the day — beginning on election day — one will get the federal government one deserves. That mentioned, everybody deserves higher.

What’s finest about this court docket case is that it exposes the worst components of Ford’s duplicity — to not point out his hypocrisy in difficult Ottawa’s carbon tax in court docket, solely to assert his personal environmental coverage is above judicial scrutiny. In Superior Courtroom, the federal government argued its legal guidelines have been merely “communications” and “aspirations,” not onerous caps that may be mandated.

Its legal professionals have relied on a local weather change denier who disputes the scientific consensus on international warming. One other authorities knowledgeable claims “Ontario’s actions are inconsequential as a result of reductions in international emissions require cuts from bigger emitters,” notably India and China.

However how can we win the co-operation of those quickly industrializing giants on carbon emissions if we refuse to make our personal sacrifices? Local weather change diplomacy would collapse if prosperous nations like Canada refused to do their fair proportion.

Ontario additionally claims it has no constitutional duty to “prevent future harm.” As exasperating as that sounds, the federal government’s defence reminds us that lawsuits minimize each methods.

What stops different litigants from claiming “future hurt” over excessive deficit spending — say, for public sector salaries or nursing houses for the aged — that saddles youthful generations with an unfair burden? Ought to judges substitute their very own judgment for the choices of elected legislatures empowered by the individuals?

The younger activists have waited a very long time for his or her day in court docket. However there aren’t any shortcuts in democracy.

Litigation ought to be a final resort. Elections ought to be the primary route.

By looking for a judicial ruling as an alternative of an electoral verdict, they’ve taken the trail of least resistance. In a democracy, the problem is to influence the those who their trigger is simply, not simply judges.

Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist specializing in Ontario politics and worldwide affairs for the Star. Comply with him on Twitter: @reggcohn


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