Edmonton

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo sues oilsands company over unpaid taxes

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is suing Sunshine Oilsands Ltd. over $15.8 million of unpaid taxes and arrears, according to court documents.

The municipality is suing Sunshine Oilsands Ltd. over $15.8 million

Trucks drive along a road at an oilsands facility near Fort McMurray, Alta. The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is suing Sunshine Oilsands Ltd. over unpaid taxes. (Canadian Press)

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is suing Sunshine Oilsands Ltd. over $15.8 million of unpaid taxes and arrears, according to court documents. 

The municipality filed a statement of claim on June 26 in the Court of Queen's Bench in Fort McMurray. 

The taxes are linked to the West Ells facility, a steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) oilsands operation west of Fort McKay. 

None of the allegations have been proven in court. At the time of publication, Sunshine Oilsands had not filed a statement of defence. 

The taxes are for the years 2016 to 2020. The statement of claim says, "Assessment Notices and Tax Notices have been duly issued by the Municipality to the Defendant in respect to the Property in each of the Tax Years and the Defendant has never commenced any assessment complaint in respect to any of the Tax Years." 

The West Ells oilsands project produces 5,000 barrels a day and started in 2015. 

In an email, a representative for the municipality said it's owed $19 million in outstanding property taxes from oilsands companies in the region. 

But at this time "no other similar situation to the Sunshine Oilsands case exists as of now."

The municipality said the decision to take the matter to court was because a "possible limitation deadline came up that requires the RMWB to file a claim to exercise this option." 

But the municipality is still willing to work with the company directly to find a "fair and equitable" solution.

The statement of claim says that the municipality will continue to accrue penalties.

In an emailed statement sent Monday, the company said it had not been served with a statement of claim but found out about the legal action "at the same time as the public."

The company also disputed the validity of the tax notices.

"Sunshine's position is that the tax notices issued by the RMWB to all ratepayers in the municipality since at least 2016 do not meet the mandatory requirements of the Municipal Government Act, and accordingly are void," the statement said.

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