Edmonton

B.C. court reference a 'recipe for economic gridlock,' Alberta premier says

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the courts will find B.C.’s proposed permitting system for bitumen shipments unconstitutional because of its potential to paralyze the Canadian economy.

B.C. wants ruling on whether it can require permits for increases to bitumen shipments

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the courts will rule against B.C. in its reference case on jurisdiction over bitumen shipments. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the courts will find B.C.'s proposed permitting system for bitumen shipments unconstitutional because of its potential to paralyze the Canadian economy.

"The powers that they are seeking through this court reference are a recipe for economic gridlock," Notley told reporters Thursday on a conference call from Slave Lake, Alta.

"If B.C. has the power to regulate the increased flow of bitumen based on environmental concerns, then that power would be extended into every province."

Notley noted B.C. is now conceding it has no power to regulate tanker traffic off its coast. 

Earlier Thursday, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his province's highest court will be asked to determine if B.C. has the right to seek permits from companies that want to increase the amount of bitumen shipped to the West Coast.

Pipe shipments have been arriving at a Trans Mountain temporary use site in Kamloops, B.C. (CFJC News)

The proposed regime would not apply to existing shipments. Notley said that shows the draft amendments are about the proposed Trans Mountain expansion pipeline, not the environment.

"If bitumen was so hazardous, why would we only be looking at the incremental bitumen in the new pipeline?" she asked.

"This isn't about the environment. This is about the new pipeline which is well beyond their authority.

"I think the courts will see right through it."

Horgan said it would be "unfair" to ask companies currently shipping bitumen to obtain permits.

Notley countered that it is equally unfair to demand a permit from companies like Kinder Morgan that have obtained federal approval.

'Stall tactic'

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers called the court reference a stall tactic to mire the Trans Mountain expansion in more red tape. 

"The government of Canada now needs to exercise its constitutional authority and act in Canada's best interests to move the project forward without further legal or political delays from the B.C. government, or risk hurting the national economy and the livelihoods of thousands of middle-class Canadians," the organization said in a news release. 

The Alberta government will apply to the B.C. Court of Appeal to be a party to the reference case, which likely will not be heard before May 31, the date Kinder Morgan has said it will decide whether or not to proceed with the Trans Mountain project. 

The company is currently in talks with the federal and Alberta governments about ways the project can stay alive in spite of the intergovernmental squabbling.

Notley said she is pleased with progress of those closed-door talks but declined to provide details to reporters.

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