Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Steel pipe to be used in the oil pipeline construction of Kinder Morgan Canada's Trans Mountain expansion project sit on rail cars at a stockpile site in Kamloops, British Columbia, May 29, 2018.


British Columbia will be in court Monday to test whether it can say “no” to the federally owned and regulated Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

The trial in the B.C. Court of Appeal will turn on constitutional law. Pipelines and railways that cross provincial boundaries, in Canada, are under the authority of the federal government, but B.C. argues that it has a responsibility to protect the environment within its borders.

The province is seeking judicial approval of draft regulations that would allow it to limit any increase of heavy oil being transported through the province, whether by pipeline, rail or highway.

Story continues below advertisement

The federal government will argue the proposed regulations aim to frustrate its right to oversee the pipeline expansion that it has declared to be in the national interest.

“By giving the province a veto power that it can use to effectively stop the expansion of federally-approved interprovincial oil transportation systems," the opening submission from the Attorney-General of Canada states, "B.C.’s regime conflicts with and frustrates the purpose behind existing federal legislation that is designed to comprehensively oversee their safe and efficient operation.”

The B.C. NDP campaigned in the 2017 provincial election on a commitment to “use every tool in our toolbox" to stop the Trans Mountain project from going ahead.

But after forming government, the new administration was briefed on the limits of provincial jurisdiction. “It became clear, through listening to legal advice, that we did not have the authority to stop a project that had been approved by the federal government," B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said in 2018.

However, he said, “we do have authority to apply conditions that are attached to the environmental assessment, a certificate, and to propose regulations to defend B.C.‘s coast.”

In its opening submission, B.C. argues that the provinces have direct ownership and legislative jurisdiction over the environment, including the lands, waters, plants and wildlife that can be damaged by a spill of heavy oil.

“The issue in this reference is how Canadian federalism reconciles these provincial responsibilities with federal authority over interprovincial transportation undertakings,” B.C. argues. “The risks of such harm are too serious, too pervasive and too interrelated with provincial responsibilities to be of exclusively federal concern.”

Story continues below advertisement

The trial is set to run seven days. Given the stakes, it is likely to be challenged to a higher court regardless of the outcome. Lawyers for industry, Indigenous communities and environmental organizations have standing, as do the municipalities of Vancouver and Burnaby, and the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

B.C.'s reference case puts three questions to the court to determine whether it can enact regulations that would require companies to obtain provincial permits to increase the volume of heavy oil they transport through the province. (The province says it cannot assert control over existing transportation levels because those have already been approved by Ottawa.)

The battle over the pipeline has created a rift between the West’s two NDP governments. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who is facing a tough election this spring, has argued that her province needs this pipeline to get its landlocked oil resources to overseas markets. The energy sector accounted for one-third of Alberta’s economy in 2017.

“Our government stood up to B.C.’s obstruction from the beginning and will continue to,” said Mike McKinnon, a spokesman for the Alberta Ministry of Energy. “We believe B.C.’s proposed legislation is not based on environmental protection but is another attempt to target and stop the export of our natural resources, which is already costing Canadians millions of dollars each day.”

The parties have agreed on a statement of facts that runs 137 pages, which should sidestep arguments on the impact of an oil spill, or the economic benefits of Canada’s energy sector.

The parties have agreed in advance that heavy oil may sink or submerge if it is spilled in water, which would make clean-up challenging. They also agree that plants and animals that come into contact with the oil may become contaminated and some may be unable to survive.

Story continues below advertisement

Trans Mountain’s proposed pipeline route will intersect 35 aquifers within British Columbia, and 15 of them are classified as highly vulnerable.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies