A Federal Court judge has granted the B.C. government a temporary injunction blocking Alberta’s law aimed at limiting the amount of oil exported into other provinces, saying it could cause irreparable harm to residents on the West Coast.
Justice Sébastien Grammond concluded British Columbia has met the test for blocking Bill 12 until the courts can decide its validity.
“It is obvious that an embargo on exports to British Columbia will cause a considerable increase in the price of gasoline and diesel in that province. Depending on the duration of the embargo, it may also lead to fuel shortages which may, in turn, endanger public safety in various ways,” the 21-page ruling stated.
Justice Grammond also noted the political rhetoric from Alberta’s two largest parties underscored the law was meant to penalize B.C. for its opposition to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
“These statements make it abundantly clear that the purpose of the act is to inflict economic harm to British Columbia through an embargo on the exportation of petroleum products to that province,” the judgment states.
B.C. Attorney-General David Eby said he’s pleased the injunction was granted and the case will now be going to trial.
“On our reading of the Constitution, Alberta is not allowed to restrict the flow of refined product to other provinces in a way to punish them for political positions that are taken that they don’t like,” Mr. Eby said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney would not tell reporters at an event in Edmonton on Tuesday whether his province would appeal the latest decision, noting the government must review the judgment first.
He did say the province may tweak the bill in order to satisfy the court. He noted B.C. courts have already ruled the westernmost province does not have the power to block pipelines originating in Alberta.
“We believe that, essentially, the threats that provoked the adoption of Bill 12 have largely disappeared as a result of other court decisions,” Mr. Kenney said. “We as a government will do everything that we can, within the law, to protect the value of our natural resources.”
The previous NDP government, led by Rachel Notley, crafted Bill 12. The NDP, however, did not proclaim the bill, which the United Conservative Party did once it came to power. Constitutional experts warned Bill 12 could be struck down.
Observers have also argued energy companies operating in Alberta would be hurt if the province slowed westward oil shipments. Mr. Kenney brushed off those concerns.
“We’ve always said that the vital strategic economic interest of Alberta outweigh the short-term interests of any particular company or sector,” he said. “This is about defending Alberta’s vital economic interests. We can not allow other governments to violate the constitution by blocking intraprovincial infrastructure, like this TMX pipeline, which bind the country together.”
Ms. Notley in an interview on Tuesday defended the NDP’s decision to pass Bill 12 in the first place. At the time, the government expected the bill to be challenged, she said.
“We didn’t know for sure that it was unconstitutional. We knew it raised constitutional questions,” she said. “There’s a strong argument that it was constitutional.”
The NDP’s decision to pass the bill but not proclaim it was about strategy, she said. The issue, Ms. Notley said, was a threat, but if Alberta proclaimed it, B.C. would have a chance to nullify it.
“We knew that if we didn’t proclaim it that the injunctive relief couldn’t be sought,” said Ms. Notley, who is now the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Kenney’s decision to proclaim the bill, she said, was about about short-term political gain in Alberta.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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