Canadian Manufacturing

B.C.’s attorney general calls Alberta fuel restriction bill a ‘bluff’

David Eby said legislation tabled by the Alberta government April 16 that would give it power to restrict oil shipments, aimed at B.C., is unconstitutional, against the law and a politically motivated bluff


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VICTORIA—British Columbia’s attorney general says Alberta’s proposed fuel restriction law is a politically motivated “bluff” that will result in an immediate lawsuit from his province and likely lawsuits from oil companies.

David Eby said government legal experts looked at the legislation Alberta tabled Monday and concluded it’s unconstitutional, against the law and designed to not be enacted.

“Clearly the legislation is a bluff,” Eby said Tuesday. “They don’t intend to use it. If they did try to use it we would be in court immediately seeking an injunction to stop them from using it, but we would probably have to get in line behind oil companies that would be concerned about contracts that they have with companies in B.C. to deliver product.”

Alberta’s proposed legislation and B.C.’s response are the latest manoeuvres in the escalating dispute over the $7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. The federal and Alberta governments support the project, while B.C. opposes it, saying it is defending its coast from a potentially catastrophic oil products spill.

So far, about 200 people have been arrested at a construction zone near the pipeline’s terminal site in Burnaby for allegedly breaking a court injunction keeping protesters away.

Indigenous leaders and local Vancouver-area politicians have also warned of increasing civil unrest as people from across Canada mount anti-pipeline protests.

Eby said he believed the Alberta legislation was intended to never be adopted, but if Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government does pass the law, then B.C. will immediately launch court action.

“We think they are very unlikely to use this, given the analysis, and we think they know it, and it is a bill for political purposes only,” Eby said in the legislature Tuesday during question period.

Notley said the legislation sends the message that Alberta is prepared to defend its resources.

It would direct pipeline companies, truckers and rail operators on how much oil product they ship and when. Violators would face fines of up to $1 million a day for individuals and $10 million a day for corporations.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday his province will support Alberta in the fight over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion by introducing its own legislation on oil exports.

He said his government will bring in a bill in the coming days that could result in less oil moving to British Columbia. Moe said he wants the Saskatchewan legislation passed shortly so it can work in tandem with Alberta’s proposed bill.

In Quebec, the Opposition Parti Quebecois offered Tuesday to help B.C.

The PQ said it will send Premier John Horgan’s minority New Democrat government a bill it tabled in 2014 amid the controversy surrounding the Energy East project. The bill affirmed the predominance of Quebec’s environmental laws and the exclusive jurisdiction of the province in such matters.

Quebec’s Liberal government threw its support to Horgan in an opinion piece published last Saturday that said Ottawa would harm federal-provincial relations by making a unilateral decision on the project without B.C.’s blessing.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers called the Alberta bill a “very strong tool” it hoped was not needed.

B.C. Opposition Liberal jobs critic Jas Johal said the province must end the escalating dispute before gas prices increase sharply in Metro Vancouver.

“Without Alberta’s energy, B.C.’s economy would come to a standstill,” he said. “The B.C. Premier (John Horgan) created this crisis, will he fix this mess before gas prices hit $2 a litre?”

Gasoline prices in Metro Vancouver are currently hovering around $1.55 a litre.

Kinder Morgan, the U.S.-based pipeline builder, announced earlier this month that it was pulling back on spending for the project and gave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government until May 31 to give a clear signal the project will proceed.

Trudeau, Notley and Horgan met Sunday in Ottawa to discuss the pipeline, but remain deadlocked. Trudeau repeated the federal government’s commitment to ensure the project is completed, saying his government will hold private, financial talks with Kinder Morgan.

Eby said the B.C. government is expecting to announce shortly that it has filed a reference case to the courts to determine if it has jurisdiction over the pipeline in the province.


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