B.C. threatens to sue Alberta over bill that could drive up gas prices
Published Monday, April 16, 2018 11:19AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, April 16, 2018 6:23PM PDT
B.C. officials are threatening legal action against Alberta if proposed legislation drives up gas prices on the West Coast.
Attorney General David Eby said Monday that B.C. is prepared to sue Alberta if the legislation appears to punish the province.
"We know, as I'm sure they know, that the constitution forbids discrimination around energy between provinces," Eby said.
"The immediate recourse that's available to us is to potentially sue the Alberta government for an unconstitutional piece of legislation."
He and Energy Minister George Heyman said B.C. will be examining Alberta's legislation closely.
"I'm not counting on Alberta taking extreme or unlawful actions, but if they do we're prepared to defend British Columbians' interests with every legal means available and in the courts," Heyman said.
And if the bill introduced in Edmonton Monday does cause local gas prices to spike, Heyman said B.C. will "certainly take them to court."
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley formally announced Bill 12, first hinted at last week, Monday afternoon. If approved, the province could start denying oil companies access to the Trans Mountain pipeline, or limiting how much is sent west, as soon as next month.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the bill's introduction to the Legislative Assembly, Notley described the bill as in defence of the energy industry, and as a response to roadblocks set up by B.C.
"This bill will give Albertans greater control of their resources, and ensure that our energy sector is able to provide Canada the maximum economic benefit of those resources," she said.
Titled Preserving Canada's Economic Prosperity Act, the bill would require companies exporting energy products from Alberta to apply for a licence.
Licences would be granted at the discretion of Alberta's energy ministry, if the minister determines it to be "in the public interest," with conditions including amount of natural gas, crude oil and refined fuels that can be shipped.
Restrictions could be imposed on the methods in which they are shipped, including by pipeline, truck or train. Those who fail to comply with the act could face fines of up to $1 million a day for individuals, and $10 million a day for corporations.
Bill 12 is one of several threats Alberta has made over B.C.'s actions, which have delayed construction on the pipeline and could spook investors. Earlier this year, Alberta briefly imposed a ban on B.C. wines, but put the illegal sanction on ice after Premier John Horgan announced he'd take their dispute to the court.
Notley says the delays have caused the Canadian economy to miss out on millions of dollars in revenue each day.
"We cannot and we will not let that stand," she said.
"This bill sends a clear message: We will use every tool at our disposal to defend Albertans, to defend our resources, and to defend the vital public services that working families rely on."
Bill 12 was supported by Alberta Opposition leader Jason Kenney, who said, "I don't want a trade war, but if B.C. starts a trade war, we're going to end it."
Notley's announcement Monday prompted an emergency debate in the House of Commons, a request made by the Conservative natural resources critic. Shannon Stubbs said thousands of jobs and billions of dollars are at stake, making the project an urgent matter for the federal government.
$2/litre? How much of a pinch will drivers feel?
Notley said her province will start making strategic plans surrounding shipments at the end of May. She told reporters the act is not solely meant to punish West Coast residents, but that Alberta is "very committed to putting pressure on B.C. to come around and focus on what this pipeline actually means."
She said she remains confident that Alberta won't have to use the legislation, but that she's also making sure that the province is prepared.
Experts believe the bill will impact the cost of gas in B.C., a province already dealing with record-breaking prices at the pumps.
Last month, the price of gas reached 156.9 cents per litre in parts of Metro Vancouver, breaking a record set in June 2014. Gas price analyst Dan McTeague has predicted prices will climb to 160 cents per litre during the summer as demand increases.
However, if Alberta passes Bill 12, McTeague said prices could be as high as $2.
"If you take gasoline out of the pipeline and re-prioritize oil, because that's where you're going to make more money, that's going to leave a good chunk of B.C. – perhaps 60 per cent – without fuel," he said Monday.
McTeague said if the proposed law is enacted, drivers can expect to see shortages and sticker shock within two weeks.
Horgan asked the federal government for help in March to ease the pinch felt by local drivers, a move Notley called hypocritical.
The Trans Mountain pipeline currently ships an average of 258,000 barrels per day of crude oil and blended bitumen, and about 44,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel.
The premier's office said about 80,000 barrels of refined fuels go to B.C. each day, transferred by pipeline, vehicle and train.
'It will be built,' Trudeau says
Over the weekend, the premiers of both provinces attended an emergency meeting with the prime minister over the Trans Mountain expansion, a $7.4-billion project approved despite opposition from B.C.
One week ago, Kinder Morgan announced it was stopping all non-essential spending due to continued actions from those against the twinning of the pipeline.
Justin Trudeau took an unscheduled break from a trip overseas to meet with the leaders, and while few details have been made public, the leader said he would use financial and legislative measures to ensure the project proceeds.
"The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada," Trudeau told reporters after the meeting.
"It will be built."
The prime minister said he's open to taking additional steps to address environmental concerns raised by Horgan, but the B.C. premier said he's still worried about the impacts an oil spill could have on Canada's western coastline.
Notley called the meeting "good progress."
"Our work to get this pipeline built, quite frankly, is nation-building work, with benefits that will be felt from coast to coast to coast," she said.
Opposition 'resolute' in B.C.
But Trudeau's message that the pipeline would go ahead was the opposite of the sentiments shared Monday by B.C. Indigenous leaders, MPs and mayors.
At a news conference, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said, "We confirm that our opposition is resolute, and we fully intend to stop this massively destructive pipeline from being built."
Chief Bob Chamberlin said Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based company behind the Trans Mountain pipeline, needs consent of all First Nations along the route, and that they do not have it.
"Bailing out Kinder Morgan so they can trample Indigenous Title and Rights makes a mockery of the Canadian pledge to respect the rights of Indigenous people," Chamberlin said.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan called Trudeau's suggestion to supplement the project with taxpayer dollars "unacceptable," and Kennedy Stewart, MP for Burnaby South, likened the prime minister's actions to bullying.
Mayor Gregor Robertson did not attend the conference Monday, but said in a statement that Vancouver stands firmly against the project.
"Climate change is accelerating and the Federal government needs to double down on a renewable energy future that provides good paying jobs across the country rather than subsidize fossil fuels and increase Canada's climate pollution," he said.
"Kinder Morgan's pipeline is a huge threat to Vancouver's environment and economy."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan, CTV Edmonton's Shanelle Kaul and The Canadian Press