Nova Scotia taxpayers may be on hook for NAFTA defeat
Bilcon denied quarry approval, now seeking $300M in damages
Nova Scotia taxpayers will be on the hook for damages coming to a New Jersey concrete company that successfully appealed the 2008 denial of its quarry proposal on Digby Neck, says the company lawyer.
Last week an international tribunal ruled Bilcon was unfairly treated when its proposal for a 50-year quarry at Whites Point was rejected by Ottawa and Nova Scotia after an "unprecedented" and "unexpected " examination of the project.
The tribunal ruled the company was entitled to compensatory damages. Future hearings will determine the amount.
"Its certainly no less than $300 million," says Barry Appleton, who represented Bilcon when it appealed to a NAFTA tribunal claiming the quarry decision breached international law.
Appleton says Ottawa will cut the cheque but Nova Scotia will also pay, since the tribunal found both levels of government were to blame.
"The federal government is responsible. They signed the NAFTA. But I know they do have an agreement with Nova Scotia that talks about splitting certain costs," says Appleton.
"I am sure the federal government will look to Nova Scotia to share some of the costs."
Bilcon successfully argued it had been unfairly blind sided by a joint review panel created by the province and Ottawa to examine the project.
The panel rejected the quarry on the grounds it compromised "community core values," a vague criteria never actually raised at the hearing.
Ignored mitigation measures
"Bilcon had been denied a fair opportunity to know the case it had to meet and to address it," the tribunal wrote in its decision.
The tribunal said the joint review panel did not properly assess the environmental effects of the proposed quarry and — wrongly — completely ignored mitigation measures.
"The rigorous and comprehensive evaluation was not in fact carried out...There was in fact a fundamental departure from the methodology required by Canadian and Nova Scotian law."
The province did not respond Monday to CBC News questions about whether there is an agreement with Ottawa that would make Nova Scotia liable to cost share the damage award, whatever that might be.
On Friday media relations adviser Heather Fairbairn sent CBC News an e-mailed statement.
"This is a complicated decision. We are seeking clarity from the Government of Canada — as the lead on this file — about what its next steps will be, including the possibility of an appeal."