Notley says Alberta watching B.C. court bid closely, will get no free ride on it

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ended the three-week ban on B.C. wine, calming the trade war

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she doesn’t believe British Columbia’s legal challenge to the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion has merit, but her government will be watching closely and won’t give its neighbour a free ride on it.

Notley said she’s not sure the B.C. courts will make a ruling on the clearly established constitutional rule that the federal government has the final say on what goes into trans-boundary pipelines.

She said if B.C. can’t find traction on that issue, dubbed ‘Point Five,’ it may try a different legal tack, and Alberta will be ready to respond.

“I think ultimately Point Five is dead because I’m not even sure that the B.C. Court of Appeal would even agree to render a decision,” Notley said in an interview Friday.

“The question (then) becomes ‘Do they (B.C. officials) come up with something else, though, to put to the B.C. Court of Appeal,’ and if that’s the case what alternatives do we have at our disposal?”

Notley isn’t specifying the options being looked at, but has suggested there would be further retaliatory action if Alberta believes B.C. is trying to stall the project through frivolous legal challenges or other means.

Her comments come a day after the first break in an escalating trade war over the pipeline, which has been approved by Ottawa and would triple the amount of crude flowing from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby.

On Thursday, Premier John Horgan announced his government was reversing its plan to suspend taking additional oil from Alberta until it was sure B.C.’s coastline and waterways were safe from catastrophic oil spills.

READ MORE: Cautious optimism on lifted wine ban at B.C. Wine Institute

READ MORE: Weaver calls for ‘immediate’ action to boost B.C. wine amid pipeline feud

Horgan said he would instead go to the courts to get a legal ruling on whether B.C. has a right to take such action under the Constitution.

In response, Notley ended the three-week ban on B.C. wine. Alberta is B.C.’s biggest wine customer, about $70 million worth of business a year, and this week the B.C. Wine Institute said wine growers were being severely affected.

The federal government has maintained it has the right to dictate what goes in pipelines and has declined to join B.C. on the constitutional reference.

Notley defended the decision to end the wine ban despite some critics who say Horgan has not killed the issue, but simply moved the fight to a different battlefield.

She has said the wine ban is not rescinded but suspended.

READ MORE: Wine war puts Okanagan vintners in a tough position

“When we came forward with the ban … we made it very clear: ‘Pull Point Five and we will pull the ban.’ And that’s what happened,” she said.

“We’re not trying to escalate (the dispute). We’re trying to make a point and to de-escalate.”

Two weeks ago, Notley struck a task force of business, finance and academic leaders to respond to B.C.’s actions.

Notley said that task force will stay in place and will meet next week to continue to explore ways to get Alberta oil to tidewater and respond to similar future challenges.

Notley has called Trans Mountain a critical part of Alberta’s energy industry that brings spin off jobs across Canada.

Alberta crude sells at a discount, sometimes a sharp one, compared with the North American benchmark West Texas Intermediate price due to pipeline bottlenecks and a lack of access to overseas markets.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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