Alberta’s legal challenge of Bill C-69 is part of a list of grievances against Ottawa

Alberta’s premier says the province’s legal challenge of a federal environmental assessment law is part of a broader fight against what he described as Ottawa’s anti-oil policies. 

“Bill C-69 is part of a series of federal policies that have attacked our vital economic interests that have killed jobs and growth here in Alberta and other parts of Canada,” Premier Jason Kenney said during a Tuesday press conference. 

The province’s case against Ottawa’s Bill C-69, or the Impact Assessment Act, began on Monday in the Alberta Court of Appeal. Arguments are expected to last all week. 

The bill, which was given royal assent in 2019, allows the federal government to consider the impacts of new resource projects on issues such as climate change. The bill was heavily amended, with changes that include provisions for taking into account a project’s positive impacts and wording that the approval process must safeguard Canada’s competitiveness.

But the Alberta government claims the bill still unfairly expands the range of federal oversight into provincial jurisdiction — and threatens the certainty required to move major projects forward.

Kenney listed shelved projects like the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines, and policies like the federal carbon tax, as examples of how it has become harder for the province’s oil industry to succeed. He said fighting Ottawa on these issues is part of a promise his government made pre-election.

He did not mention the federal government’s purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

The province is being supported in its case by the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario.

Kenney said, as Alberta’s lawyers plan to argue in court this week, that the Constitution gives provinces jurisdiction over exploration, development and management. 

“This was a condition precedent of Alberta signing the Constitution … this essential power which underscores Alberta’s ownership of its resources,” he said, while holding up a copy of the Constitution. 

A wide array of environmental and legal groups are intervening in support of Ottawa’s position.

David Khan, a lawyer for Ecojustice, which is intervening in support of the legislation, said there is case law demonstrating the environment is a shared jurisdiction.

“This is another one of [Kenney’s] politically motivated attacks on good laws that defend our air, water and land,” Khan told The Canadian Press.

Kenney said he expects the timeline for this judgment will be roughly six months. 

A decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on the province’s appeal of the federal carbon tax is expected sometime in March.

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