Premier Rachel Notley pulls Alberta out of federal climate plan over Trans Mountain ruling

In a dramatic announcement Thursday evening, Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling Alberta out of the national climate-change plan to protest a federal court ruling that quashed plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.

'Albertans are angry, I am angry,' premier says of Thursday's federal court ruling

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley updated reporters on the progress of the Kinder Morgan pipeline at a news conference in Edmonton Wednesday. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

In a dramatic announcement Thursday evening, Premier Rachel Notley said she is pulling Alberta out of the national climate-change plan to protest a federal court ruling that quashed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The ruling by the Federal Court of Appeal poses a threat to Canadian sovereignty and economic security and leaves the country hostage to the whims of the White House and U.S. President Donald Trump, Notley said.

"Albertans are angry, I am angry," Notley said in reaction to the ruling that stalled a project her government has spent major political capital to advance. "Alberta has done everything right, and we've been let down."

The premier called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court and recall Parliament for an emergency session.

Notley blamed both the current federal government and the previous one for creating a situation she said has made it "practically impossible" to build a pipeline to tidewater in a country with more coastline than any other on Earth.

"Now, more than ever, we need to come together and prove to ourselves and to the world that our country works," Notley said. "This ruling is bad for working families. And it is bad for the economic security of our country."

Canada can't accept that the only market for its oil and gas resources is in the United States, Notley said.

"No other country on Earth would accept this, and Canada shouldn't either, especially when we are doing it to ourselves. It is ridiculous.

"Money that should be going to Canadian schools and hospitals is going to American yachts and private jets. We're exporting jobs, we're exporting opportunity, and we are letting other countries control our economic destiny. We can't stand for it."

She said Alberta will not sign on to the national climate-change plan "until the federal government gets its act together."

"And let's be clear," she said, "without Alberta that plan isn't worth the paper it's written on."

Notley said she spoke to Trudeau on Thursday. The prime minister assured her that his government remains committed to building the pipeline.

The premier said the decision reached Thursday has no impact on Alberta's own climate-change plan, or on the carbon tax her government introduced on Jan. 1, 2017, and raised a year later. But her declaration that Alberta plans to pull out of the federal climate change plan leaves proposed future carbon tax increases in doubt. 

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley reacts to the Trans Mountain ruling in a news conference Thursday evening. 0:49

But Canada can't transition to a lower-carbon economy, Notley said, until it creates the jobs and raises the tax money needed to do so by selling its natural resources at fair market value.

The $7.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion would double the capacity of a pipeline that transports Alberta petroleum products to the West Coast.

The expansion project appeared set to move ahead. But on Thursday morning, the federal court said the National Energy Board's assessment was so flawed it should not have been relied on by the federal cabinet when it gave final approval to proceed in November 2016.

Earlier Thursday, Jason Kenney characterized the court ruling as a win for other oil-producing nations, and urged the Notley government to immediately repeal its carbon tax.

Speaking in Calgary at about 1 p.m., the leader of the Official Opposition United Conservative Party said the court decision proves Notley's NDP government has been headed in the wrong direction by continually arguing that carbon tax would win the social licence needed to build such projects.

"She has been wrong on this from Day 1," Kenney said. "She drank the proverbial Kool-Aid, believing that a punishing carbon tax would get the environmental radicals to down tools.

"We've been paying that carbon tax now for a couple of years. It's made the cost of everything higher, but it's done nothing to get us the so-called social licence."

'A sad day for Canada'

Kenney called the court decision a sad day for Canada.

"Today is a win for the OPEC dictatorships," he said. "It's a win for Donald Trump. He gets to continue to buy Canadian oil at a steep discount, while reselling American oil to the rest of the world at a much higher price."

He called on the federal government to immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada and to immediately pursue whatever additional consultations the Federal Court of Appeal is demanding.

The courts, Kenney said, seem to continually change the definition of what constitutes meaningful consultations with Indigenous groups.

"I'm not a lawyer but I am very frustrated with the decision and, as a general comment, I think the judiciary needs to understand that these are not academic questions," Kenney said. "That decisions like this have massive impacts on people's lives, on ordinary people's livelihoods.

"People are going to lose their jobs. Businesses are going to go down. First Nations will lose the opportunity to generate wealth for their people as a result of today's decision.

"Do they even care about that when they balance out competing interests in these decisions? I don't know. But I certainly hope the Supreme Court of Canada will have an opportunity to review this and, I hope, restore some balance to this decision."

UCP Leader Jason Kenney called Thursday's federal court ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline a "bad day" for Canada. (CBC)

Also Thursday, Kinder Morgan shareholders overwhelmingly approved the sale of the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project to the Canadian government for $4.5 billion.

NEB assessment was inadequate, courts says

Notley said in July that Alberta would likely end up owning a piece of the pipeline. In May, she said her government would make up to $2 billion available, if necessary, to keep the project going.

Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel called Thursday's ruling "a very sad day for Alberta" and for the future of Canada.

"As a result of this government's continued naivety, Albertans are now left with higher taxes and nothing to show for it besides a pile of cancelled permits and a nearly 70-year-old pipeline," Mandel said in a statement.

"Time and time again Rachel Notley stood in front of Albertans with shovels in hand, promising that Trans Mountain pipeline would go ahead without fail. Rachel Notley owes all Albertans an apology and answers on the hopes and monies which have been committed to this project."