The federal government has announced it will intervene in the constitutional reference question filed by the government of British Columbia about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, issued a statement Thursday saying:
“The Government of Canada will intervene in the constitutional reference question filed by the Government of British Columbia under the BC Constitutional Questions Act.
“We are confident in Parliament’s jurisdiction and will intervene on the question in order to defend our clear jurisdiction over interprovincial pipelines.”
In late April, the B.C. government asked the B.C. Court of Appeal to determine whether it can pass legislation that would require companies to get permits from the provincial government before increasing the flow of bitumen through the province.
WATCH: Ottawa to intervene in B.C. government Trans Mountain court case
If the appellate court approves, the new provincial rules would derail the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Back in February, B.C. asked the federal government to do a joint legal reference, but Ottawa declined. At the time, B.C. Premier John Horgan said that forced the province to “go it alone” in the court case.
“We have asked the courts to confirm B.C.’s powers within our jurisdiction, to defend B.C.’s powers within our jurisdiction, to defend B.C.’s interests, so that there is clarity for today and for the generations to come,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan.
“Our government will continue to stand up for the right to protect B.C.’s environment, economy and coast.”
The government is asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the province the power to regulate impacts of heavy oils, like bitumen, when spilled. The province is also asking the court to determine whether the effects of a spill will endanger human health, the environment or communities.
There is no timing on how long the court may take to receive submissions, schedule a hearing, then release a decision.
Kinder Morgan has imposed a May 31 deadline on the federal government to ensure that B.C. is on board with the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The expansion would nearly triple the volume of bitumen flowing through the pipeline to Burnaby, B.C., from north of Edmonton.
Saskatchewan is also ‘strongly considering’ applying to intervene as well. Premier Scott Moe says he supports the federal government’s decision to get involved in the case.
“We are glad the federal government is intervening,” said Moe in a statement. “Although there is more they could be doing to assert their jurisdiction to get the pipeline built, like withholding discretionary infrastructure funding from B.C. ”
There are three formal questions the government has placed before the Court of Appeal regarding the draft legislation. The questions are:
- Is it within the legislative authority of the Legislature of British Columbia to enact legislation substantially in the form set out in the attached Appendix?
- If the answer to question 1 is yes, would the attached legislation be applicable to hazardous substances brought into B.C. by means of interprovincial undertakings?
- If the answers to questions 1 and 2 are yes, would existing federal legislation render all or part of the attached legislation inoperative?
-With files from Richard Zussman and David Baxter