Here’s why Alberta's new premier probably can't just ‘turn off the taps’ to BC

Apr 17 2019, 9:45 pm

Following months of campaigning, six days of voting, and millions of ballots cast throughout the province, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney was voted in as Alberta’s new premier on Tuesday night.

Kenney campaigned on a number of issues and promises, including a plan to enact what has been dubbed the “turn-off-the taps” legislation –  officially known as Bill 12: Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act.

While the bill was tabled by the former Alberta NDP government last year as part of the ongoing pipeline dispute with BC, Kenney said during the campaign that if elected, he wouldn’t be afraid to put the bill into action.

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At a speaking event last month, Kenney said he and his party “will make it clear to our partners in the federation – such as the BC government – that if they continue to obstruct our energy and violate the economic union of Canada guaranteed in the Constitution, we will use the ‘turn-off-the-taps’ legislation.”

This, he added, “is what I proposed nearly two years ago.”

But on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Kenney’s win, a BC legal expert told Daily Hive that “turning off the taps” is easier said than done.

Asked if Kenney and his government could legally proceed with this, Joel Bakan, a law professor with UBC responded simply, “no, he cannot.”

The reason for this, Bakan said, has to do with what is written in the Constitution Act of 1867.

Under this act, he said, “a province cannot interfere with interprovincial trade of anything, whether it’s a resource or a commodity, for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons.”

And in the case of the Alberta government’s stance on the issue and the back-and-forth with BC, “all the evidence here suggests that the reason behind this law – which currently exists in the form of Bill 12 – is discriminatory.”

The “evidence ” includes comments from ministers in the previous government, and comments from Premier-elect Kenney on the campaign trail.

The BC NDP and Alberta government have been at odds with one another over the pipeline issue, ever since BC announced legislation in January 2018 that, if successfully passed, would give the province power to restrict the amount of bitumen that flows to theshores — essentially halting the Trans Mountain Pipeline in its tracks.

For his part, Horgan said he has already spoken to Kenney following his election win to congratulate him.

“Our brief conversation was constructive and focused on issues that matter to both Alberta and British Columbia,” he said on Wednesday. “We agreed to talk about challenges in the days ahead.”

Horgan added that he’s looking forward “to further conversations and working together in the interests of both of our provinces.”