Good Morning! Wendy Cox in Vancouver here.
The B.C. Court of Appeal delivered the provincial government a unified No to the NDP’s question of whether B.C. had the constitutional jurisdiction to limit the amount of heavy oil flowing through its borders. All five justices concluded Friday only Ottawa has the oversight of the federally owned and regulated Trans Mountain pipeline.
The ruling did nothing to warm the relationship between Alberta and its western neighbour. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was jubilant, calling the ruling a “huge victory.”
Former premier Rachel Notley, whose fury over British Columbia’s proposed environmental legislation prompted her government to ban the importation of B.C. wines for a time and to propose legislation allowing Alberta to turn off the flow of fuel to British Columbia, responded with cheek.
“Turns out BC's toolbox was more Fisher Price than DeWalt,” she said in a news release. The remark is a reference to B.C. Premier John Horgan’s declaration during the B.C. election campaign in 2017 that he would “use every tool in our toolbox“ to stop the Trans Mountain expansion.
But B.C. Attorney General David Eby indicated the province still has some tools left.
Mr. Eby swiftly declared the province would take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada, where, he maintained, it should have been all along. The federal government, with the sole ability to refer a case directly to the high court, chose not to do that.
Mr. Eby said it’s a fight worth having, regardless of cost. He noted the top court has overturned unanimous B.C. Appeal Court judgments in the past.
“In terms of the financial costs of going to court to clarify this question, to clarify the extent of our jurisdiction, it is a fraction of a fraction of the cost of a catastrophic diluted bitumen spill … so we think it is worthwhile,” he said. He said that under federal legislation, the province has the right to appeal its reference question, so there is no requirement to seek leave to appeal.
Environmental and Indigenous groups were disappointed, but both have the ability to seek intervenor status when the case moves to the Supreme Court.
With little resolved around the question of whether the pipeline can go ahead, the federal government was reserved in its response to the B.C. decision.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi indicated his government intends to make a decision on whether to re-approve the pipeline project by June 18, though few believe that green light won’t come after the Liberals spent $4.5-billion last year to purchase the existing pipeline to ensure the expansion project goes ahead.
“It is a core responsibility of the federal government to help get Canada’s natural resources to market,” his office said in a statement.
As Gary Mason notes in his column today, the decision Friday contains ample reason for the federal government to be resolute in pushing the project through, despite British Columbia’s bluster.
“While nothing should surprise us when it comes to this project, it seems inconceivable that the courts will thwart it once again – despite the stated intention of the B.C. government to try to do just that. For all intents and purposes this fight is over,” Gary writes.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West
CHIEF POUNDMAKER: A prominent Saskatchewan chief has been exonerated by the Prime Minister more than 130 years after Chief Poundmaker was arrested and convicted of treason. On May 2, 1885, a Canadian expeditionary force attacked the Poundmaker reserve in retaliation for what it claimed was looting. The chief said he and others had been gathering rations for his people, who were hungry because of declining bison herds. The troops were forced to retreat in the battle and later the Chief attempted to negotiate a peace agreement, but he was arrested and convicted of treason.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government of the day was wrong to condemn Chief Poundmaker as a criminal and a traitor.
“Our government acknowledges that Chief Poundmaker was a peacemaker who never stopped fighting for peace. A leader who, time and time again, sought to prevent further loss of life in the growing conflict in the Prairies.”
ORCAS: Justine Hunter looks at what the plight of a southern resident orcas off B.C.'s coast says about the health of the whale population and the debate about the Trans Mountain pipeline. Princess Angeline – or J17 as she is known to researchers – is showing signs of starvation.
ALBERTA OIL BY RAIL: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he’ll attempt to convince the private sector to take on oil-by-rail contracts signed by the previous NDP government or use legislation to get out of them. Mr. Kenney says the new United Conservative government has no intention of getting into the business of shipping crude.
OIL AND GAS: A B.C. First Nation will be back in court on Monday to challenge the constitutionality of British Columbia’s management of natural resources. The Blueberry River First Nation argues in its lawsuit that the approval of a significant amount of forestry, natural gas and other industrial activity has violated its treaty rights.
CARBON TAX: Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Ottawa will impose its carbon tax on Alberta “as soon as possible” after the United Conservative government kills the tax next week. Premier Jason Kenney made repealing the provincial tax the centrepiece of his recent election campaign. Mr. Kenney also plans to launch a court challenge of the federal tax.
MÉTIS SELF-GOVERNANCE: A small Métis community in northern Alberta has declared self-government, setting off negotiations with Ottawa that locals hope will give them the power to control their future. The Fort McKay Métis say they are the first local Métis group to seek a self-governance agreement. They began the process two years ago, and last year purchased purchasing 150 acres of boreal forest for $1.6-million.
TRANSIT: Vancouver-area mayors have banded together to lobby for increased transit funding in the next federal election. The mayors’ council for TransLink, which is the Lower Mainland’s transit authority, has registered as a third-party advertiser.
SURREY POLICE: B.C. Premier John Horgan says municipal leaders in Surrey need to make a better case for their plan to ditch the RCMP and create a new local police force. Mr. Horgan says the public needs a clear understanding of why the city wants to change its police force and what that will mean in terms of costs and the quality of policing.
Blaine Favel on the exoneration of Chief Poundmaker: “In exonerating our Chief, the Prime Minister and, through him, Canada, move closer to real reconciliation and mutual understanding. The words spoken Thursday will correct a historical untruth. The apology needs to be followed by continued actions by the Canadian government.”
Hugh Segal on the tanker ban and the Senate: “Killing a government bill that was part of an election platform that elected a majority government, and which was passed in the House with multiparty support, is simply not in the Senate’s job description – not as long as Canada is a parliamentary democracy, premised on the British model, as specified in our very Constitution.”
Tony Coulson on the mood in Alberta: “Albertans are struggling through an economic downturn that many see as the worst in their lifetime. The feeling that other Canadians don’t understand what they are going through is strong – so strong that it’s straining commitment to the federation itself.”
Merran Smith on the transition to clean energy: “As climate change costs us more and more each decade, and as Canada finds its place in a transitioning global economy that’s shifting away from fossil fuels, we need to understand our clean-energy sector. We need to understand what it looks like, where the jobs are, how it’s doing, and its opportunities.”