B.C. filed a statement of claim in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench last month calling the law unconstitutional and has made a similar filing in Federal Court. (Flickr photo)

‘B.C.’s vital interests are at stake’: Lawyers battle over Alberta’s turn-off-the-taps law

Alberta government lawyer argued that the province’s turn-off-the taps legislation not meant to hurt B.C.

A lawyer for the Alberta government has argued that the province’s turn-off-the taps legislation is not meant to hurt B.C. despite political rhetoric that suggests otherwise.

A Calgary judge is hearing B.C.’s request for an injunction against the law.

The province filed a statement of claim in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench last month calling the law unconstitutional and has made a similar filing in Federal Court.

Evan Dixon, a lawyer for the Alberta government, says the legislation is neutral on its face and there have been no orders to restrict the flow of oil to B.C.

He also argued B.C.’s attorney general does not have standing to fight the law in court because there are parties that would be more directly affected.

Gareth Morley, a lawyer for the B.C. government, said it’s the attorney general’s job to stick up for the public interest.

“We’re here because British Columbia’s vital interests are at stake,” Morley told the court Friday.

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Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall interrupted Dixon frequently to challenge him on his points. He said it’s clear from Premier Jason Kenney’s comments in the legislature that the law is meant to squeeze Alberta’s western neighbour.

“It’s to lay some hurt on B.C. and so the government of B.C. says, ‘I’m going to stand up for my people,’” Hall said.

The legislation was passed — but never used — by Alberta’s former NDP government as a way to put pressure on B.C. to drop its fight against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The new United Conservative government in Alberta proclaimed it into force shortly after Kenney was sworn in.

Kenney has said he doesn’t intend to use the law right now, but he will if B.C. throws up roadblocks to the pipeline.

The project, first approved in 2016, would triple the amount of oil flowing from the oilsands to B.C.’s Lower Mainland and from there to lucrative new markets across the Pacific.

The federal government bought the existing pipeline last year for $4.5 billion after its original builder, Texas-based Kinder Morgan, threatened to walk away from its expansion because of B.C.’s resistance.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval months later on the grounds that there hadn’t been enough consultation with First Nations or consideration of the pipeline’s potential impact on marine wildlife.

The project was approved for a second time by the federal cabinet last week.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

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