The weirdness of B.C.’s lawsuit against Alberta

Photo: The Golden Star

 

Why is the Province of B.C. suing Alberta?

To keep getting Alberta oil.

Which B.C. is also suing to not get.

The bitter irony could make your head pop right off. Premier Rachel Notley sums it up as well as anyone.

“On one hand they don’t want our oil, on the other hand they’re suing us to give them our oil,” she said at a news conference Tuesday.

The lawsuit, which asks Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench to declare Bill 12 invalid, stresses how important Alberta oil and gas are to B.C.

Just passed, that law gives the Notley government power to restrict shipments of oil and refined products — gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel — across the border.

B.C. finally seems to realize it has a bit of a problem here. The lawsuit says:

“A significant disruption in the supply of gasoline, diesel and crude oil from Alberta to British Columbia would cause British Columbia irreparable harm.

“In addition to economic harm, a sudden disruption in supply could injure human health and safety in remote communities.”

This may be the Horgan government’s first admission that B.C. is powered by something more than fairy dust. It comes from the same people who would block Alberta’s shipments of bitumen, which already produce some of those precious refined products.

There’s been a lot of posturing on all sides of this corrosive conflict. But the Alberta government has at least had the courage to pass an actual law. B.C. resorts to time-consuming references, challenges and lawsuits without end.

Notley says Bill 12 could be triggered at any moment as the May 31 deadline approaches for a deal to save the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

She was asked Tuesday what B.C. would have to do, or not do, to satisfy her that the pipeline can go ahead.

B.C. has to stop playing “rope-a-dope,” she said. Premier John Horgan must state a clear point where, if he loses yet another round, he will stop harassing the project.

But nobody expects that. B.C. New Democrats won’t even promise to respect a Supreme Court ruling.

(Rope-a-dope, in case you wonder, is defined as “a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring, ineffective punches.”)

In their lawsuit, B.C. lawyers included several quotes from Notley and her ministers about causing B.C. harm in retaliation for Horgan’s tactics.

Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd said the new law “would restrict resources to B.C. to inflict economic pain on them so they realize what their decisions mean.”

And yet, Bill 12 itself never mentions B.C. or any other province. Its stated purpose is not to punish anyone, but to increase the value of Alberta resources through supply control.

This is intentional. Everybody says B.C. is the target, but Alberta isn’t going to put that in law, or even act that way in practice. To do so could make a supply squeeze unconstitutional.

It’s quite likely that to stay within constitutional bounds, export restrictions under Bill 12 would include shipments across Canada, not just to B.C.

That’s bizarre, to be sure, but it might even have the political benefit of driving home the seriousness of this problem.

Nigel Bankes, a constitutional and resource law expert at the University of Calgary, says “on the face of it, the way it’s worded, Bill 12 is probably constitutional.”

He feels the statements about punishing B.C. could have some adverse impact in court. But what matters more are the regulations that go with the law (not even published yet) and how they’re applied.

B.C.’s lawsuit is a political stunt aimed more at the B.C. audience than any Alberta judge. It certainly won’t stop Notley from squeezing oil supply, if we come to that sad state in this country.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


18 + four =