Rachel Notley warns of dire outcome if B.C. wins authority to regulate oil from Trans Mountain

 Emma Graney Emma Graney

More from Emma Graney

Canada’s economy will “grind to a halt faster than you can say ‘free trade’” if B.C. gets the regulatory powers it’s seeking under a court reference filed Thursday, Canada Premier Rachel Notley says.

British Columbia wants the courts to rule the province has the authority to regulate the flow of oil through the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The government has sent draft legislation to the B.C. Court of Appeal asking whether it has the right to enact tougher restrictions for companies — such as Kinder Morgan — transporting heavy oil like diluted bitumen through the province.

The legislation would require companies transporting heavy oil to get permits, and those permits would come with restrictions from the government, such as requiring a spill response plan from the company.

“B.C. should have a say over whether we put our coast, streams, rivers and tens of thousands of jobs in harm’s way,” Premier John Horgan said Thursday.

Notley fired back that the B.C. government is trying to exploit a constitutional loophole around the environment to target and harass the pipeline project.

Environment is a shared jurisdiction, Notley said, but B.C. has strayed “several miles” beyond the parameters that lay out who controls what.

“The way B.C. is framing this would effectively drive a truck — but not a train or a pipeline, apparently — through that loophole,” she said. “The resulting consequences would be very, very damaging to our national economy.”

‘A recipe for economic gridlock’

Notley said the powers B.C. is seeking from the court “are a recipe for economic gridlock.”

She’s confident the application will be dismissed, but has directed Canada officials to apply to become a party in the case.

If B.C. ends up with the power to regulate and restrict the increased flow of bitumen, Notley argued, so too every other province would have the authority to regulate B.C. exports.

“Essentially, B.C. wants the power to unilaterally throttle our resources and hurt the Canadian economy. They should be very careful of what they ask for,” she said.

Notley and Horgan both say they’re standing up for their respective provinces, though Notley went a step further and said Canada’s fight is in the best interests of Canada.

“We are one country and we must be able to make decisions in the national interest,” she said.

“Are we going to do that? Or are we going to devolve into competing jurisdictions at war with each other over inter-provincial trade?”

Horgan said the case will ask to defend B.C.’s interests and ensure clarity today and for future generations.

“Our government will continue to stand up for the right to protect B.C.’s environment, economy and coast,” he said.

The reference case

The B.C. government is asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give B.C. authority to regulate impacts of heavy oils, which Horgan says could endanger human health, the environment and communities.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said the reference question seeks to confirm the scope and extent of provincial powers to regulate environmental and economic risks related to heavy oils.

Kinder Morgan curtailed spending on the project earlier this month, blaming delays in B.C.

The company set May 31 as the deadline for governments to find a solution to the impasse and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly vowed that the project will go ahead. Notley said Thursday that work with the feds and Kinder Morgan is going well.

Eby said it is “highly unlikely” that the court case will be settled before the May deadline.

A legal reference is an advisory opinion on a point of law. The B.C. Court of Appeal is the highest court to which the province can send a reference question.

With files from Postmedia and The Canadian Press


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categorised in: