Court orders Quebec to continue financing Anticosti operations

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered the provincial government to help oil company Petrolia maintain its operations on Anticosti Island.

Monthly payments to Petrolia to prevent job losses must continue until both sides agree on drilling

Quebec environmental groups are calling on the government to publish the results of 2015 drilling for shale gas on Anticosti Island and to hold an environmental review. (Radio-Canada)

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered the provincial government to help oil company Petrolia maintain its operations on Anticosti Island.

But the court also ruled the government and a private partner won't have to hand over nearly $13 million to Petrolia, which was at the heart of its injunction demand. 

The decision will force Quebec and Saint-Aubin E & P to make monthly payments to Petrolia to prevent job losses as it waits for the two sides to resolve their impasse on exploratory drilling on Anticosti. 

It also ordered both parties to appoint an independent administrator of the project within 30 days.

Petrolia filed the injunction in an attempt to secure money it says was promised as part of a 2014 deal with the Quebec government. It was seeking $7.26 million from Quebec and $5.55 million from Saint-Aubin.

A fisherman casts for salmon in Rivière à l'Huile in Anticosti. The island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence has become the site of a heated debate over oil and gas exploration. (R. Rancourt/Creative Commons)

Obligation to maintain jobs

In its filings to the court, Petrolia claims that Premier Philippe Couillard has tried to derail the deal through Ressources Québec, a subsidiary of the province's investment agency. 

"There are now obligations that the partners must respect: maintain Petrolia jobs until we decide on what work will be done," said Iya Touré, a vice-president at Investissement Québec, after the ruling on Friday.

Couillard has repeatedly criticized the 2014 deal, which was signed during the dying days of the previous Parti Québécois government, but has also said he will respect it.  

Ressources Québec and Saint-Aubin (a subsidiary of French company Maurel and Prom) are partners with Petrolia in an investment venture called Anticosti Hydrocarbons, which holds the licence for exploratory drilling on the island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Petrolia and another oil company, Corridor Resources, gave up their drilling rights on the island as part of the 2014 deal, receiving in exchange a promise of financing for drilling operations under the guise of Anticosti Hydrocarbons.