The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has stayed a lawsuit by the B.C. government seeking to challenge Alberta’s so-called “turn off the taps” legislation.
The Alberta bill, which would allow the province to cut oil and gas shipments to B.C., was proclaimed into law by premier Jason Kenney this spring. Kenney says it would only be used if B.C. blocked the Trans Mountain pipeline.
On Friday, Justice R.J. Hall ruled B.C. didn’t have standing to argue the case in the Alberta court and that the lawsuit should have been filed in Federal Court.
B.C. has, in fact, filed a mirror case in Federal Court anticipating such an outcome, though the Federal Court may still refuse to hear the case.
WATCH: Alberta threatens to turn off the taps to B.C.
“The Province has been clear that we will defend the interests of British Columbians,” said the B.C. Attorney General’s office in a statement.
“We are in the process of reviewing the decision of the AB Court of Queens Bench. However, we had already filed with the Federal Court and look forward to the day that this legislation, which is unconstitutional and designed to punish people in B.C., is heard in court.”
Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage said the government is “pleased that the Alberta court did not grant B.C.’s injunction against Bill 12.
“We will continue to defend Alberta jobs and economic opportunity and look forward to making our case at the Federal Court.”
Hall ruled that under Alberta’s Judicature Act, only the attorneys general of Alberta and Canada have the standing to challenge an Alberta law in the Alberta court, in cases where the applicant isn’t seeking any further relief.
“It is noteworthy that neither party could direct me to any cases in which one province has sued another province in the defendant’s jurisdiction seeking a declaration of constitutional invalidity of legislation enacted by the defendant province,” Hall wrote in his reasons for the decision.
However, Hall said the finding does not suggest that B.C. doesn’t have recourse to sue, nor that Alberta’s law is protected from a constitutional challenge.
“Long ago, our Parliament and the majority of Canada’s provincial legislatures turned their mind to the possibility of intergovernmental disputes and enacted provisions giving the Federal Court (formerly, the Exchequer Court) jurisdiction over controversies between provinces,” Hall added.
WATCH: Kenney talks about Alberta’s ‘deep frustration’ with pipeline delays
Long-running legal saga
It’s just the latest twist in the long-running legal saga surrounding the legislation, which grew out of conflict between the two provinces over the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The fracas began back in January 2018 when B.C. proposed restricting the flow of bitumen within its borders, arguing it posed an environmental threat.
Alberta took that as a direct attempt to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing the B.C. NDP’s campaign promise to use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the project.
Former Alberta premier Rachel Notley’s government actually passed the bill in 2018 but never proclaimed it into force.
B.C. attempted to challenge the law in 2018, but the court ruled that the effort was premature as the bill had not yet been proclaimed yet.
After Kenney proclaimed the law this spring, B.C. re-filed the challenge and the province began arguments seeking an injunction declaring it unconstitutional late last month.