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Alberta anxiously watching Ontario carbon tax court decision

CALGARY — The Jason Kenney government will be closely watching a court ruling expected Friday in Ontario.

That province’s top court rules on the validity of the federal carbon tax.

The Doug Ford government is challenging the constitutionality of the carbon-pricing law.

The federal government maintains the levy in Ontario — currently four cents a litre on gasoline — is a regulatory charge designed to change behaviour in favour of lower greenhouse gas emissions. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government calls the charge an illegal tax, arguing the federal government overstepped its authority in imposing the charge.

For its part, Ottawa argued climate change poses an urgent threat and is an issue of national concern.

Alberta and Ontario are among four provinces challenging the pricing scheme.

Last month, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal sided with Ottawa in a similar challenge.

READ MORE: Court of Appeal rules in favour of Ottawa in Carbon Tax challenge

“Although the (Saskatchewan decision) isn’t by any stretch the final word, it sort of set the pace and the tone for the subsequent judicial decisions,” said Martin Olszynski, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Calgary.

Even if Ontario’s top court rules in favour of Ottawa, there could be a political cost associated with the tax, according to Lori Williams, Associate Professor of Policy Studies at Mount Royal University.

“What (the Trudeau government) is going to try and do is pitch it as good for the environment. On the one hand, claiming there is a climate emergency and on the other approving Trans Mountain (expansion) as part of trying to invest in cleaner technology.”

Olszynski expects Friday’s ruling will side with the federal government but adds the final decision will likely be made by the Supreme Court of Canada.

“And it won’t be until that point that we have a clear, authoritative decision from the Supreme Court saying whether or not greenhouse gas legislation passed by the federal government is valid or not,” Olszynski said.

The Alberta government has launched its own challenge of the federal carbon tax. Arguments have yet to be heard in court.

WATCH: Alberta vs the federal government

With files from The Canadian Press

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