The B.C. NDP government is playing its last cards in an effort to have a say in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, bringing a reference case to the B.C. Court of Appeal by April 30.
Environment Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby provided no detail on the reference as they headed into a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning. In general, it is to determine what authority the province has to regulate the twinning of the pipeline that has pitted B.C. against the Alberta and federal governments.
Heyman declined to say whether the reference would be a proposed set of provincial regulations or questions to the court about the extent of B.C.’s jurisdiction. His proposal in January to create new regulations to restrict the transport of diluted bitumen sparked a furious response from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who briefly ordered a ban on wine shipments into B.C.
The B.C. Court of Appeal is the highest court in the province, but Eby could not say how long it would take to get a ruling.
The move comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan on Sunday. Trudeau emerged from that meeting saying his government is preparing new financial and legal measures to make sure the $7.4-billion pipeline twinning goes ahead.
With options running out and 14 previous court challenges to Trans Mountain having been rejected by courts, Heyman began anticipating the possibility that the reference case would also fail.
“We’re determined, particularly if the Court of Appeal question is lost and the project is going ahead, to ensure that we exercise every inch of our constitutional jurisdiction to ensure that we’re regulating against the possibility of a spill,” Heyman said. “And to ensure that in the completely event of a spill, that we’re doing everything possible to protect B.C. by having the regulations in place to ensure adequate response, adequate recovery.”
The federal government has announced increased spill prevention and response resources on all of Canada’s coastlines, including spill bases at Sidney, Beecher Bay, Ucluelet, Nanaimo, Richmond and Port Alberni.
But when Trans Mountain owner Kinder Morgan announced on April 8 it was halting non-essential work on the pipeline project, Western Canada Marine Response Corp. said it was also halting capital spending on the new spill capacity.