British Columbia

B.C. sues Alberta over turn-off-the-taps legislation

The B.C. government has filed a statement of claim in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench over legislation that would allow Alberta to restrict oil and gas shipments to B.C.

Statement of claim in Alberta court seeks declaration legislation is unconstitutional

A ship receives its load of oil from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Westridge loading dock in Burnaby, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The B.C. government has filed a statement of claim in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench over legislation that would allow Alberta to restrict oil and gas shipments to B.C.

The legislation was passed last week in response to B.C.'s continued opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. If it is used, it could cause already high gas prices at B.C. pumps to spike.

The statement of claim seeks a declaration that the Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act is unconstitutional and can't be used.

"The government of Alberta introduced and supported the act because it asserts British Columbia is responsible for 'delays' to an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline," the statement reads.

"Alberta seeks to utilize powers under the act to punish British Columbia."

The B.C. government is being unfairly blamed for delays facing the Trans Mountain expansion, said B.C. Attorney General David Eby.

"We have granted permits at the same pace and with the same process as the previous [B.C.] government," he said Tuesday.

"There has been a mischaracterization of B.C.'s role here."

He noted the project is facing a number of legal challenges, including one by First Nations that challenges the environmental assessment process and was underway before the NDP formed government in B.C.

Law could cause 'irreparable harm,' B.C. says

The B.C. government argues in the statement of claim that a significant amount of gas and diesel consumed in the province comes from Alberta.

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

B.C. Attorney General David Eby is taking Alberta to court. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

It also notes cutting off the supply could injure human health. Many remote communities in B.C. rely on diesel generators for electricity and could suffer if fuel supplies were suddenly cut off, Eby said.

The B.C. government has been accused of delaying the pipeline through a reference case in the B.C. Court of Appeal. That case seeks to determine if it has jurisdiction to limit expanded shipments of heavy oil through the province over environmental concerns.

Eby maintains the government is only taking the step to protect B.C.'s coast from spills and that the federal government could expedite that case by referring it to the Supreme Court of Canada — something the federal government has declined to do.

Alberta responds

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Tuesday she is not surprised B.C. has moved ahead with legal action, but called it premature because Alberta has yet to proclaim the bill and design the regulations for restricting oil and gas shipments.

She also disagreed with B.C.'s assertion that it has not delayed the pipeline expansion, citing the legal action in B.C.

"If we thought that was the very last thing that they would do, and they would commit to that, then we could probably move forward," she said.

"They are still reserving the right to play legal rope-a-dope until the cows come home."

The legal action by B.C. comes a day after Notley pulled out of meetings between the western premiers in Yellowknife.

Notley said her time is better spent at home ensuring a deal is reached with Kinder Morgan to shore up the pipeline expansion. The company has set a deadline of May 31 to decide if it will continue with the project.


Megan Thomas


Megan Thomas is a reporter for CBC in Victoria, B.C. She covers stories from around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Follow her on Twitter @meganTcbc.