An Alberta independent senator’s bid for a Supreme Court reference in favour of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion may be more about marketing than lawmaking, according to a professor at the Canadian Institute of Resources Law (CIRL) in Calgary.
Calgary-based Sen. Doug Black, a Stephen Harper appointee with deep connections to the Alberta oilpatch, introduced a pipeline protection bill in mid-February, aimed at declaring Trans Mountain “a work for the general advantage of Canada.” At the time, Calgary Herald columnist Claudia Cattaneo cast the measure as “a blunt move, based on a section of the Constitution that hasn’t been invoked in decades, but that if passed could shut down British Columbia’s opposition” to the project.
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This week, Black called on the Trudeau government to refer his bill to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Vancouver Sun says he’s hoping for an expedited decision that would “provide final approval to the project in a timely manner and overturn objections from the NDP-Green Party coalition government, environmental groups, and some municipalities, which have put severe strain on building timelines for the pipeline.”
“My view is let’s just cut to the chase and get it done,” Black said. “We need to prevent further unnecessary delay to moving the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project forward.”
But at CIRL, Prof. Alastair Lucas said the Supreme Court is unlikely to hear a request that looks more like “marketing” than a policy that would address the legal hurdles confronting Trans Mountain.
“Frankly I have to wonder what that would achieve,” Lucas told the Sun. While expedited decisions have been used to declare key infrastructure like grain elevators in the national interest, he explained, “that power hasn’t been used in decades.”
The Sun adds that expedited decisions in the Supreme Court “are rare, but not without precedent. The last expedited Supreme Court decision was to reject former prime minister Stephen Harper’s call to turn the senate into an elected body in 2014. The court rejected the proposal.”