B.C. launches Constitutional challenge to Alberta’s gas law

David Eby
Attorney General David Eby

B.C. has filed a constitutional challenge to Alberta’s Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, which enables it to “shut of the taps,” of B.C.’s oil supply from that province.

The act was given Royal Assent in Alberta May 18 as tensions increase between the two province’s over the Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of the TransMountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

“Just prior to Third Reading, Premier (Rachel) Notley stated that ,Albertans, British Columbians and all Canadians should understand that if the path forward for the pipeline through B.C. is not settled soon, I am ready and prepared to turn off the taps,'” reads the B.C. statement of claim filed in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

B.C. is arguing that the Act is designed to punish British Columbian’s for its stance on the pipeline. On January 30, B.C. announced its intention to engage in “consultation on proposed legislation to improve preparedness, response and recovery from potential spills into the environment, including measures imposing restrictions on increased volumes of diluted bitumen brought into British Columbia,” which sparked a war of words and a brief trade action, imposed by Alberta, limiting the import of B.C. wine.

In its statement of claim, B.C. says shutting off the oil to B.C. will substantially harm the B.C. economy.

“A significant disruption in the supply of gasoline, diesel, and crude oil from Alberta to British Columbia would cause British Columbia irreparable harm,” reads the statement of claim. “In addition to economic harm, a sudden disruption in supply could injure human health and safety in remote communities.”

British Columbia is arguing that the Alberta Act violates Section 121 of the Constitution. That section “prohibits any law that is a tariff (a duty or charge of any kind imposed on or in connection with importation or exportation of goods across a border) or whose purpose and essence makes the law “tariff-like.” The essence of the Act is to impose a cost burden on crude oil, natural gas and refined fuels crossing the Alberta/British Columbia border. The primary purpose of the act is a purpose traditionally served by tariffs, namely, punishing another province, namely British Columbia.”