Calgary

Top court's TMX decision a 'slap-down' for B.C., Alberta government says

The Supreme Court of Canada's verdict on B.C.'s attempt to challenge the Trans Mountain expansion drew swift praise from the Alberta government and energy sector.

Supreme Court dismissal of B.C. pipeline challenge described as 'victory' for Albertans

Alberta's Energy Minister Sonya Savage said in a news conference on Thursday the Supreme Court's decision "slapped down" provinces that needed to "stay in their lane." (Government of Alberta)

The Alberta government has declared victory after the Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday dismissed British Columbia's attempt to block the Trans Mountain expansion project, a decision that drew swift praise from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the province's energy sector.

The British Columbia government's appeal represented one of many legal hurdles for the delayed and embattled expansion project.

Kenney said the ruling validated the Alberta government's belief that the regulation of interprovincial infrastructure should be authorized exclusively by the federal government.

"This could not be a stronger affirmation of Alberta's position," he said Thursday. "I really believe 2020 is going to be a good year, a turnaround year, for Alberta."

Ruling 'a real slap-down' for B.C., says minister

The B.C. NDP government had drafted amendments to provincial environmental law to all but ban interprovincial shipments of heavy oil — bitumen and diluted bitumen — and other "hazardous substances" through pipelines, including the Crown-owned Trans Mountain expansion project.

The amendments would have required companies transporting these substances through B.C. to first obtain provincial permits.

The Supreme Court echoed many of arguments made previously by the five judges on the B.C. Court of Appeal, who ruled unanimously last spring that the B.C. government stepped into federal jurisdiction by imposing conditions on a project that crosses provincial boundaries.

At a news conference Thursday in Calgary, Alberta's Minister of Energy  Sonya Savage described the court's decision as a "victory" for Albertans and Canadians alike — but reserved strong words for the B.C. government.

"It was a real slap-down of one province that was trying to block a project that has been determined to be in the national interest," Savage said.

"It was a clear and decisive decision that sets out a clear message to ... all governments that they need to stay in their own lane."

The Trans Mountain expansion project would see nearly a million barrels of oil a day moved from Alberta to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

B.C. Premier John Horgan — who has sought to stop construction of the expansion — said in a statement that he was disappointed by the court's decision, which effectively ends the province's litigation.

"This does not reduce our concerns regarding the potential of a catastrophic oil spill on our coast. When it comes to protecting our coast, our environment and our economy, we will continue do all we can within our jurisdiction," he said.

Decision gets seal of approval from energy sector

For Canada's largest oil and gas lobby group, the Supreme Court's decision represents another victory in what has been an uphill battle to get the pipeline built.

Tim McMillan,  president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), issued a statement saying the organization is "pleased, but not surprised" by the ruling against B.C.'s appeal — which it described as "a challenge that was intended to block the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline."

Tim McMillan, the president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), (CBC)

"This is a project that has undergone historic levels of consultation, reviews and court challenges, and at each turn has been found to be in the best interests of all Canadians," McMillan said in the statement. 

"It is time to unite behind the completion of this nation-building project so Canadians can start to benefit from selling our responsibly produced resources to global markets."

A separate Federal Court of Appeals case on the project, which considers Indigenous issues, is still pending.

With files from John Paul Tasker

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