NEWS RELEASE · 25th August 2012
The B.C. Liberals’ claim that they could withhold permits to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline after signing away jurisdiction to Ottawa is irresponsible and legally untenable, say the New Democrats.
“The Liberals are taking the wrong approach on this critical issue,” said New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming, “And they have no real mechanism to stop the pipeline from being built.”
Both Premier Clark and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mary Polak have claimed that the Liberal government could withhold provincial permits as a way to stop the Enbridge pipeline from proceeding.
Fleming said it would be acting in bad faith, would expose the province to costly lawsuits and would send a message to investors that B.C. cannot be trusted when it comes to major project approvals.
“Surely the premier and Minister Polak understand the way the courts would view such an action,” said Fleming. "It all smacks of a desperate attempt to appease public opinion, which has been swinging increasingly against the pipeline project."
Under the 2010 Equivalency Agreement between B.C. and Canada, federal approval of the Enbridge pipeline is deemed to constitute provincial approval as well. The province cannot deliberately thwart the pipeline by the indirect means of denying provincial permits, when it has allowed the federal process to approve the pipeline
"The courts would take a very dim view of a government that enabled the federal process to approve the pipeline one day, then attempted to stop it the next day by denying the necessary permits," said constitutional lawyer Murray Rankin. "The province would take such legal action at its peril.”
Fleming also noted that the B.C. Liberals have abdicated all responsibility for the Enbridge project and even failed to provide evidence on behalf of the province of British Columbia to the Joint Review Panel.
“We have a federal process making a critical decision for B.C., with no representation from our provincial government. There aren't even any British Columbians on the panel reviewing the pipeline,” Fleming pointed out.
Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats announced a plan Wednesday that would reassert legal jurisdiction over the pipeline review in British Columbia by rescinding the agreement the Liberals signed that gave up B.C.'s right to participate.
“A made-in-B.C. review would re-assert B.C.’s control over the decision and ensure the voices of citizens, businesses and communities are properly heard,” said Fleming. "For First Nations in particular, we need to ensure their interests and rights are properly addressed in the process."