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Alberta court declares assessment act unconstitutional

Russell Hixson
Alberta court declares assessment act unconstitutional
PROVINCE OF ALBERTA — Crews lay down welds on a pipeline in Alberta. The province's highest court ruled that federal laws that assess the impacts of major resource projects violate the Constitution.

Alberta’s Court of Appeal has ruled the federal government’s environmental impact laws violate the Constitution in a non-binding decision.

Bill C-69 sought to overhaul how major infrastructure projects are reviewed and approved in Canada, which Alberta argued violated the rights of provinces.

It was passed by the Justin Trudeau government in 2019 and included language that empowered Ottawa to weigh the effect of resource projects on environmental, social issues and climate change.

“This is a historic win for the people of Alberta,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in a statement. “The court’s ruling that the federal government does not have constitutional authority to control provinces and territories and the development of our natural resources is a great victory for Alberta and for Canadian federalism. Trudeau’s ‘no more pipelines’ law goes against what the framers of our Constitution intended and is certainly not what provincial governments agreed to on patriation of the Constitution.”

The court argued the legislation “would permanently alter the division of powers and forever place provincial governments in an economic chokehold controlled by the federal government.”

The authors added it represents an existential threat to the Constitution’s division of powers.

The Progressive Contractors Association of Canada (PCA) also celebrated the decision but noted the issue remains unsettled.

“We took a vigorous stand when it was tabled,” said Darrel Reid, vice-president of policy and advocacy at PCA. “A lot of resource provinces called it the ‘no more pipelines bill,’ which basically meant to erect obstacles to future energy development in the west. In previous governments, like (Stephen) Harper’s, people who wanted to build a big resource project would know how they are doing and if they have a yes or no at the end to make important investment decisions. This just drags out the regulatory process with no discernible end.”

Reid added since the PCA heard about the bill it has connected with officials in impacted provinces and lobbied Ottawa. They plan to continue to do so as an appeal has already been announced.

“The Impact Assessment Act delivered on an important promise made to Canadians to reform a broken system and restore public trust in how decisions about major projects are made,” said Trudeau, addressing Parliament. “The previous Conservative government gutted environmental protections, eroded public trust and discouraged investment. They made it harder, not easier, for major projects to be built. We will be appealing this decision.”


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