Province seeks intervener status
S.K. minister accuses B.C. city of holding up pipeline process
The Government of Saskatchewan is again throwing itself into the national debate surrounding pipelines.
The government announced that it will be seeking intervener status with the National Energy Board (NEB) as it relates to the Trans Mountain Pipeline project. In a media release sent out Friday morning, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General Don Morgan defended the government’s course of action.
“Our government will continue to advocate for an expansion of pipeline capacity across Canada,” he said.
If they are granted the status, the provincial government will be able to participate in the process by asking questions and presenting research and evidence for examination by the NEB. The pipeline will run from Edmonton, through the B.C. interior, before ending on the province’s coast. The project has been a contentious one, with many groups expressing concerns about potential environmental impacts. Moose Jaw North MLA Warren Michelson explained that in making the decision to ask for intervener status, the government is acting in the province’s best interests.
“The stance of the provincial government is to do everything we can for the good of the Saskatchewan economy and the people of Saskatchewan, so the attorney general has decided to seek intervention into getting this pipeline put through,” he said.
Michelson said the city of Moose Jaw would not see any direct economic benefits from the project going through, but that it is still an important one.
“Specifically, for Moose Jaw it really is an umbrella project that would help all of Saskatchewan,” he said.
The media release also singled out the City of Burnaby British Columbia, which the government accused of deliberately slowing down the project. The city has been opposed to the project since it was first announced.
“We are disappointed the City of Burnaby is deliberately slowing down an important project for an industry that is only now recovering from the severe slowdown caused by low oil prices,” Morgan said in the release.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan responded to Morgan’s accusations with some very pointed criticisms.
“I was shocked at how irresponsible your attorney general is,” he said when reached Friday afternoon.
The mayor added that Morgan was making statements that were based on information that is not completely reliable.
“Why would he, simply on the basis of affidavit materials from Kinder Morgan, conclude that everything they say is correct?” he said. He said that Morgan’s actions are ones that are unbecoming of a judicial officer and amount to pre-judging the situation.
“That is so irresponsible as to be unconscionable, is that how things operate in Saskatchewan,” he said.
Corrigan said that the Saskatchewan government has the right to ask for intervener status as part of the process. He explained that many other jurisdictions around the country would take issues with the sentiment that local and provincial governments should give up certain regulatory functions because a project is found to be one that is in the national interest.
Don Morgan was not available to comment on Friday. A government spokesperson said they would be making a statement on Monday.
Disputes between provinces are not new in Canada, nor is it new for a province to be given intervener status in regards to an issue being dealt with in another province. Raymond Blake is the head of the department of history at the University of Regina, and has done extensive research on Canadian federalism. He said people and organizations need to meet certain criteria in order to get intervener status with a tribunal like the NEB.
“The ones they will recognize as having intervener status are ones that have a vested interest in the outcome,” he said.
Anyone is allowed to apply for intervener status to bodies like the NEB, but, according to Blake, in the name of keeping the process smooth they often limit the number statuses granted.
“I think quite often what happens in these tribunals … they sort of take people who are representative,” he said.
Blake speculated that in their argument to get intervener status, the Saskatchewan government may make the case that the Trans Mountain Pipeline is so important to Saskatchewan from a number of standpoints that they deserve a seat at the table. He added that the government of Alberta would likely be making similar claims, which could be interesting in the political arena.
“This may in fact bring the NDP government in Alberta and the Sask. Party in Saskatchewan together,” he said.