Following the Alberta government’s claim that the federal Impact Assessment Act was a “Trojan horse” that intruded on provincial jurisdiction, the Court of Appeal of Alberta has agreed and ruled that the legislation is “unconstitutional” and oversteps when it comes to development in the energy sector.
Previously known as Bill C-69, the 2019 legislation lists development projects that trigger an impact review and allows federal officials to consider the effects of new resource projects on environmental and social issues. Essentially, it puts a microscope on projects with the most potential for adverse environmental effects in areas of federal jurisdiction.
The Court of Appeal said in its non-binding opinion that, “legitimate concerns about the environment and climate change shared by all Canadians and provincial governments as well as the federal government do not justify overriding our existing form of federalism and the division of powers.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement following the May 10 decision that said, “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.”
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Kenney added that, “We want to see investment grow, not driven away by unbalanced, unpredictable new rules for large-scale infrastructure projects.”
Alberta was supported in its challenge of the Impact Assessment Act by the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario, as well as three First Nations and the Indian Resource Council.
Following the ruling from the Court of Appeal, Federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson stated prior to the start of Question Period, that, “we are very confident that this is constitutional, that our position will be upheld,” adding that the latest ruling will be appealed.
Wilkinson added that the legislation is designed “to ensure that we actually are addressing substantive environmental concerns at the very early stages, such that good projects can go ahead and projects that actually are not able to be conformed to good environmental standards do not.”
The legislation has several goals: to lay out impact assessment processes and timelines; identify factors that must be taken into account during the impact assessment and decision-making process; provide tools to support cooperation and coordination with other jurisdictions; require transparency through information made publicly available on the registry; and to provide tools and authorities to ensure compliance.