B.C. government threatens to sue Alberta over ‘turn off the taps’ legislation

B.C. Attorney General David Eby.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby. Chad Hipolito/CP

The B.C. government is vowing to take the Alberta government to court if they take advantage of the powers given to them by Bill 12.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says the legislation, which would allow Alberta to restrict the shipment of oil and gas to B.C., is unconstitutional. Eby has sent a letter to Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley detailing British Columbia’s concerns.

David Eby Letter by amyjudd on Scribd

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“I would urge your government to commit not to proclaim Bill 12 into force until it has referred it to the Alberta courts to assess its constitutionality,” reads the letter.

“In the absence of such a commitment, I intend to instruct counsel to bring an action challenging its constitutional validity in the courts of Alberta.”

Watch below: John Horgan said it was an “unprecedented day” on Wednesday, calling comments by Kinder Morgan and the federal government “provocative” and labelling Alberta legislation to turn off the taps as “unconstitutional.”

Click to play video '‘Unprecedented day’: Horgan calls Alberta legislation ‘unconstitutional’' ‘Unprecedented day’: Horgan calls Alberta legislation ‘unconstitutional’
‘Unprecedented day’: Horgan calls Alberta legislation ‘unconstitutional’

READ MORE: Alberta to pass Bill 12 Wednesday; Notley ‘prepared to turn off the taps’ over Trans Mountain

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the NDP government plans to pass Bill 12 Wednesday. Once passed, the government would be able to direct truckers, pipeline companies and rail operators on how much product could be shipped and when.

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“I’m ready and prepared to turn off the taps,” Notley said.

WATCH HERE: Alberta has ‘different leverage points’ to get Trans Mountain built: Premier Rachel Notley

Click to play video 'Alberta has ‘different leverage points’ to get Trans Mountain built: Premier Rachel Notley' Alberta has ‘different leverage points’ to get Trans Mountain built: Premier Rachel Notley
Alberta has ‘different leverage points’ to get Trans Mountain built: Premier Rachel Notley

The legislation was introduced as part of the ongoing battle between the B.C. and the Alberta governments over bitumen. The B.C. government has vowed to do everything in its “tool kit” to stop the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. The $7.4-billion pipeline twinning would see nearly three times as much crude bitumen being shipped every day from north of Edmonton to the Kinder Morgan facility in Burnaby.

“At the end of the day today, Alberta will be equipped with new tools to assert our rights to control the flow of our resources to British Columbia,” Notley said.

READ MORE: Danielle Smith: B.C. should pay to indemnify Trans Mountain

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But in his letter to Alberta, Eby says past comments from Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd that the legislation was a device to “restrict resources to B.C., to inflict economic pain on them” is a sign the legislation is designed to punish B.C., which goes against the constitution.

“I am confident that the Constitution of Canada prevents any province from attempting to resolve a legal dispute by inflicting economic harm through trade sanctions. Bill 12 is manifestly unconstitutional,” reads the letter.

“Bill 12 is a step back towards trying to resolve differences through threats of economic harm, rather than by having the best argument in a court of law.”

The B.C. Court of Appeal is currently looking at a reference case from the B.C. government asking if legislation that would allow the flow of bitumen by pipeline or rail through the province is constitutional.

READ MORE: Federal government to intervene in B.C.’s Trans Mountain pipeline reference question

Kinder Morgan has scaled back spending on the project and has set a May 31 deadline for the federal government to get British Columbia to back away from its opposition of the project.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said on Wednesday morning that if Kinder Morgan wants to abandon plans to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, there are plenty of other investors out there willing to take up the cause.

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He also said the federal Liberal government is willing to “provide indemnity” to those investors to ensure the controversial Alberta-B.C. project is able to proceed.

— With files from Emily Mertz