The Alberta government has officially asked the province’s Appeal Court whether Ottawa’s new environmental assessment process for major construction projects like pipelines is constitutional.
The government filed its challenge with the court on Tuesday, asking it whether the federal government was acting within its authority when it passed Bill C-69, which established the process earlier this year.
“The government of Alberta asserts that Bill C-69 is a flagrant violation of the exclusive constitutional jurisdiction of provinces and territories to control the development of their natural resources,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a news release on Tuesday.
“We are standing up for the long-term prosperity of our province and for every Albertan and every Canadian who will be affected by this legislation. Bill C-69 will make it much harder, and maybe impossible, for any future pipelines and similar critical infrastructure projects to be approved in Canada. All of Canada relies on the 533,000 well-paying jobs our energy sectors provide.
“Our government will continue to stand up to the federal government and will use every tool to prevent this from happening,” the statement continued. “Today, we launch our challenge against a piece of legislation that will have devastating impacts on Canadians. I look forward to Alberta’s interests being defended in court.”
Canada’s senators passed Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, on June 20 by a vote of 57-37 and it came into law at the end of August. The move came after Senate passed 188 amendments to the bill earlier that month.
The bill sets up a new authority to assess industrial projects, such as pipelines, mines and inter-provincial highways, for their effects on public health, the environment and the economy.
Kenney calls the bill “the No More Pipelines Law.” The day after Senate passed bills C-69 and C-48, he said he was “profoundly disappointed” and that the two pieces of legislation were attacks on Alberta.
At the time, Kenney said the passage of those two bills pushed Alberta closer to calling a referendum on federal equalization payments. It was a point the United Conservatives brought up often during the Alberta election campaign.
“That if the federal government proceeded with unacceptable versions of these two bills, attacks on our vital economic interests, that if we did not get a coastal pipeline built and if the federal government proceeds with the imposition of a federal carbon tax on us, we’d be prepared to hold a referendum to delete Section 36 of the Constitution Act, the principle of equalization, concurrent with the 2021 October municipal elections,” the premier said June 21.
In court documents dated Sept. 10, the Kenney government filed a reference order in council in which the lieutenant-governor refers two questions regarding Bill C-69 to the Court of Appeal of Alberta for hearing or consideration.
The first question asks: “Is Part 1 of An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, S.C. 2019, c. 28, unconstitutional in whole or in part, as being beyond the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada under the Constitution of Canada?”
The second question asks: “Is the Physical Activities Regulations, SOR/2019-2’85, unconstitutional in whole or in part by virtue of purporting to apply to certain activities listed in Schedule 2 thereof that relate to matters entirely within the legislative authority of the Provinces under the Constitution of Canada?”
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has said the new review process for projects like pipelines, mines and highways, will be clear and timely.
She said it will allow for as many as 100 new resource projects worth $500 billion to be proposed and examined over the next 10 years.
— With files from Canadian Press