B.C. still not ready with reference question for courts on Trans Mountain pipeline

Attorney General David Eby says reference case is not ready yet in ongoing Trans Mountain battle. Liza Yuzda / CKNW

The British Columbia government is still not able to put a timeline on when a legal reference question will be presented to the courts on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Attorney General David Eby says that lawyer Joseph Arvay is still going through the province’s legal options.

“These things do take some time to prepare, but we are working as quickly as we can,” said Eby. “We do understand the importance of having the question and the information to the public as well as to the courts as quickly as we can.”

The B.C. government decided to hire Arvay in February during the midst of the trade dispute between Alberta and British Columbia. The move prompted Alberta premier Rachel Notley to end the ban on importing B.C. wines into the province. Alberta and the federal government decided not to join the reference case.

READ MORE: B.C. judge calls for Crown to criminally prosecute pipeline protesters

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Last Sunday the tension was ramped up when Kinder Morgan said the uncertainty caused by B.C.’s public opposition to the pipeline would force them to cancel the $7.4-billion pipeline expansion project by May 31 if there aren’t assurances from Ottawa the pipeline would be built.

British Columbia says it is willing to have formal talks with the federal government about next steps, but Ottawa has still not reached out. This comes following Alberta Premier Rachel Notley meeting with federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Wednesday. B.C. Premier John Horgan has spoken on the phone to both Notley and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but both conversations were short and did not lead to any solutions.

Following Morneau’s meeting with Notley, Ottawa closed the door on the Trans Mountain legal case appearing anytime soon in the Supreme Court of Canada.

“We are in a position where we know that this is federal jurisdiction. We’ve been clear. We don’t see a need to refer something to the Supreme Court of Canada when we already know that it’s a federal jurisdiction,” Morneau said.

READ MORE: B.C. city to take Trans Mountain pipeline fight to Supreme Court of Canada

Reference cases, like the one currently being prepared by Ottawa, can be done in different ways. Eby says they can be more open-ended or have very specific provisions. British Columbia has not decided yet whether the question will be filed in B.C. Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal.

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“The key issue that we want to resolve is the constitutional question that [was] raised in relation to number five of environment intentions document that the minister put forward. What we are looking for is certainty,” said Eby. “The province has responsibility and authority even in projects that are pipelines that are federal jurisdiction.”

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