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Stalemate: Court declines to rule on constitutionality of Alberta's anti-BC Bill

by Mark Sabourin
EcoLog, 3/1/2019 11:39:00 AM

Alberta’s Bill 12, the colourfully titled Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, can remain on the books, at least for now, according to a ruling from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. British Columbia (B.C.) had applied to the court for a declaration that the Act was unconstitutional. The court declined, but only because Bill 12 has not yet been proclaimed in force.

Should it eventually be proclaimed, the court said B.C. could take up its claim again.

The Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act is part of the interprovincial tussle over the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The Act sounds innocuous enough: it gives the government authority to require companies to obtain a licence before exporting energy products from Alberta via pipeline, rail or truck, including natural gas, crude oil and refined fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

But Alberta made no secret of its intent, which was to allow the province to choke off B.C.’s supply of gasoline and diesel. Alberta supplies 55% of B.C.’s gasoline and 71% of its diesel, and B.C. has no viable alternative.

Bill 12 was introduced on April 16, 2018 and passed a little more than a month later on May 16, 2018. It was Alberta’s poke-in-the-eye response to similar provocations from its neighbour to the West, including an announcement earlier in the year that B.C. was considering regulations that would restrict any increase in the shipment of diluted bitumen into the province pending studies on the behaviour of spilled bitumen.

If such a regulation were passed and upheld, it would effectively put a stopper in any pipeline expansion. However, just as Alberta has not proclaimed Bill 12, so has B.C. not made any public effort beyond the announcement to move ahead with its regulation. For now, the stalemate persists.

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