Petrolia, Quebec told by judge to resolve differences outside of court

A Quebec judge has ordered oil company Petrolia and the provincial government to return to the negotiating table instead of ruling on an injunction request.

Petrolia claims Quebec is delaying handing over promised investment

Petrolia hopes to open a fracking operation on Anticosti Island. (Radio-Canada)

A Quebec judge has ordered oil company Petrolia and the provincial government to return to the negotiating table instead of ruling on an injunction request. 

Petrolia had filed the request to force the government to deliver $12.8 million to the company and its partners so they can continue oil and gas exploration on Anticosti, an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

The company accused Premier Philippe Couillard of purposefully blocking the project for ideological reasons. 

Couillard denied any designs to block the project and said that his government had executed the contract with Petrolia "to the letter." 

How Anticosti became the centre of a debate over oil and gas exploration

Superior Court Judge Martin Castonguay suspended the injunction hearing on Wednesday, telling Petrolia to resume discussions with the government outside of the courtroom.

The judge gave the two sides until July 21st to work out their differences. Castonguay promised to intervene if they fail to come up with an agreement. 

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)

The agreement between the provincial government and Petrolia was signed in 2014 by then-premier Pauline Marois.

At the time of the agreement with Petrolia, Marois called it a chance for Quebec to "take back its rights on natural resources" by decreasing the province's future dependence on foreign oil.

Premier Philippe Couillard has expressed reservations about the project, and initially signalled he wouldn't follow through on the Marois government's commitment. But Couillard relented in March. 

"The contract is there. We have to follow it," he said earlier this month.

"It doesn't mean that we're happy. We're going to protect that unique ecosystem, I can tell you that."

Couillard has faced criticism from environmental groups for his decision to honour the agreement with Petrolia. Environmentalists say that Anticosti's fragile environment and endangered species will be at risk if the oil and gas exploration goes ahead.