Al­berta chal­leng­ing en­viro re­view process


Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Rob Drinkwa­ter

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment has asked the prov­ince’s Ap­peal Court to rule on whether Ot­tawa’s new way of han­dling en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments for ma­jor con­struc­tion projects such as pipe­lines is constituti­onal.

The gov­ern­ment filed its chal­lenge with the court on Tues­day. It ques­tions whether the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was act­ing within its au­thor­ity when it passed a bill ear­lier this year that es­tab­lished the pro­ce­dure.

Al­berta Premier Ja­son Ken­ney ar­gues that Bill C69 in­fringes on the rights of prov­inces to con­trol their own nat­u­ral re­sources and that it will kill what is left of Al­berta’s oil-and-gas sec­tor.

When the bill be­came law last month, the prov­ince’s jus­tice and en­ergy min­is­ters said they would chal­lenge its con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.

“I know that per­haps some of my po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries will say this is some kind of po­lit­i­cal theatre.

“Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth,” Ken­ney told an au­di­ence at an oil and gas show in Fort McMur­ray on Tues­day.

He said the move is about more than pro­tect­ing jobs.

“It is about the rule of law. It’s about the dream of an eco­nomic union. It’s about re­spect for the fun­da­men­tal law of the land, the Con­sti­tu­tion of Canada.”

Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine McKenna has said the new re­view for­mat for projects such as pipe­lines, mines and high­ways will be clear and timely.

She said it will al­low for as many as 100 new re­source projects worth $500 bil­lion to be pro­posed and ex­am­ined over the next 10 years.

Ken­ney said prov­inces have the ex­clu­sive au­thor­ity to reg­u­late pro­duc­tion of re­sources within their bound­aries as set out in Sec­tion 92 (a) of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“The ex­clu­sive au­thor­ity — this is not a mat­ter of grey,” Ken­ney said.

Eric Adams, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Al­berta, said it’s not so black and white.

Adams, who is an ex­pert in Cana­dian constituti­onal law, said even though prov­inces have ju­ris­dic­tion over pro­duc­tion of their nat­u­ral re­sources, that doesn’t mean the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can’t pass laws on en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters that will af­fect the oil and gas sec­tor.

He said it comes down to what the law is re­ally about. If Ot­tawa can per­suade the court that it is about the en­vi­ron­ment, crim­i­nal law, in­ter-pro­vin­cial projects or any­thing else it has ju­ris­dic­tion over, then the ques­tion of whether it also has im­pacts on oil and gas won’t mat­ter.

“I’m cer­tainly far from say­ing the case is a hope­less one. (Ken­ney) may well win his day in court,” Adams said. “But there are strong and com­pelling ar­gu­ments that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will be mak­ing, and to sug­gest oth­er­wise is to only be look­ing with one eye.”

Ken­ney said con­struc­tive amend­ments made to Bill C-69 by the Se­nate were stripped out by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s gov­ern­ment.

He said he’s con­fi­dent the prov­ince will win and that other prov­inces will join in fight­ing Ot­tawa to pro­tect their ju­ris­dic­tion.

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