Whose (Pipe)line is it Anyway?

By: Martin Olszynski 

PDF Version: Whose (Pipe)line is it Anyway?

Document Commented On: Quebec’s Letter to TransCanada Corp. Imposing 7 Conditions on Energy East

On November 18th, on the heels of a unanimous vote of non-confidence in the National Energy Board (NEB) by Quebec’s National Assembly, Quebec’s Environment Minister sent a letter to TransCanada outlining seven conditions that the company must meet before the province “accepts” the Quebec portion of the company’s proposed pipeline. Most of the conditions are similar to those stipulated by British Columbia with respect to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline (e.g. world class emergency and spill response plans, adequate consultation with First Nations) with three notable differences. First, while Quebec insists that the project generate economic benefits for all Quebecers, unlike British Columbia it is not asking for its “fair share” (whatever that meant). Second, because Energy East involves the repurposing of an existing natural gas pipeline, Quebec insists that there be no impact on its natural gas supply. Finally, and the focus of this post, Quebec insists on a full environmental assessment (EA) of the Quebec portion of the pipeline and the upstream greenhouse gas emissions from production outside the province – something that the NEB has consistently refused to assess in its other pipeline reviews. Last week, Ontario joined Quebec in imposing these conditions (see here for the MOU). Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged that “Alberta needs to move its resources across the country,” but argued that the two provinces “have to protect people in Ontario and Quebec.” In this post, I consider whether this condition is consistent with the current approach to the regulation of interprovincial pipelines.

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Alberta Utilities Commission Approves the Proposed Sale of AltaLink’s Transmission Assets to the Berkshire Hathaway Group

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Alberta Utilities Commission Approves the Proposed Sale of AltaLink’s Transmission Assets to the Berkshire Hathaway Group

Decision Commented On: AUC Decision 2014-326, AltaLink Investment Management Ltd. and SNC Lavalin Transmission Ltd et al, November 28, 2014

AltaLink owns significant transmission assets in Alberta. AltaLink in turn is owned by SNC Lavalin. SNC Lavalin wanted to divest itself of these assets and found a wiling purchaser in the form of the US based Berkshire Hathaway Group. The transaction however requires the approval of federal foreign investment and competition authorities (already in place) and of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

The AUC ‘s approval is required under the terms of s.102 of the Public Utilities Act, RSA 2000, c. P-45 (PUA) which provides as follows:

Unless authorized to do so by an order of the Commission, the owner of a public utility designated under section 101(1) shall not sell or make or permit to be made on its books a transfer of any share of its capital stock to a corporation, however incorporated, if the sale or transfer, in itself or in connection with previous sales or transfers, would result in the vesting in that corporation of more than 50% of the outstanding capital stock of the owner of the public utility.

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Alberta releases the Carbon Capture and Storage Quantification Protocol for Public Comment

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Alberta releases the Carbon Capture and Storage Quantification Protocol for Public Comment

Document Commented On: Quantification Protocol for CO2 Capture and Permanent Storage in Deep Saline Aquifers, Version: DRAFT for public comment, November 2014 and associated commentary on changes made from the version released for technical review.

The Government of Alberta (GoA) continues to make progress in putting together the legal and regulatory framework for commercial scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects in the province. Such a legal and regulatory framework needs to address four types of issues: (1) property issues including the ownership of pore space and a scheme for leasing or disposing of rights to pore space; (2) regulatory or permitting rules for reviewing the merits of particular projects and to establish the terms and conditions under which projects might proceed; (3) liability issues; and (4) greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting issues to ensure that CCS projects are fully integrated into regulatory approaches for managing greenhouse gas emissions – in the case of Alberta this means integrating CCS projects into the Specified Gas Emitter Regulation, Alta Reg 139/2007 (SGER).

The key elements of the province’s framework to date (with links to previous posts on the topic), are as follows: Continue reading

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Unified Family Courts: An Established Mechanism for Improving Access to Justice

By: John-Paul Boyd

PDF Version: Unified Family Courts: An Established Mechanism for Improving Access to Justice

Lawyers practicing in jurisdictions with multiple trial courts and no unified family court will be aware of the challenges facing litigants without counsel. First there’s choosing the right law, because of the overlapping federal and provincial legislative jurisdiction in family law matters. Then there’s choosing the right court, because of the trial courts’ simultaneous but asymmetric subject matter jurisdiction. And then there’s the question of the courts’ relative degrees of complexity, expense and accessibility, and the extent to which corollary social and legal support services are or are not embedded in the court process.

One obvious solution might lie in amalgamating the trial courts to provide litigants with one court, with easy to understand rules and processes that are proportionate to the nature of the dispute and specific to family law, that is integrated with the relevant social services. This is more or less the approach taken in parts of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Saskatchewan, where there is a single court for the resolution of family law disputes, but it seems to be off the menu in Alberta and British Columbia for reasons that escape me.

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Posted in Access to Justice, Family | 2 Comments

Assisted Suicide and Adverse Effects Discrimination: Where Will the Supreme Court Go in Carter?

By: Jennifer Koshan and Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Assisted Suicide and Adverse Effects Discrimination: Where Will the Supreme Court Go in Carter?

Case Commented On: Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2012 BCSC 886, rev’d 2013 BCCA 435, leave to appeal to SCC granted 2014 CanLII 1206 (SCC)

We recently posted a paper on SSRN that is forthcoming in the Review of Constitutional Studies, dealing with the Supreme Court of Canada’s approach to adverse effects discrimination under section 15(1) of the Charter. Adverse effects discrimination occurs when laws that are neutral on their face have a disproportionate and negative impact on members of a group identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination. Although the Court has recognized adverse effects discrimination as key to the Charter’s guarantee of substantive equality, it has decided only 8 such cases out of a total of 66 section 15(1) decisions released since 1989, none since 2009. Only 2 of the 8 claims were successful (see Appendix I in our paper). Our analysis shows several obstacles for adverse effects discrimination claims, including burdensome evidentiary and causation requirements, courts’ acceptance of government arguments about the “neutrality” of policy choices, narrow focusing on prejudice and stereotyping as the only harms of discrimination, and failing to “see” adverse effects discrimination, often because of the size or relative vulnerability of the group making the claim.

In light of the very small number of successful adverse effects claims and the problems in the case law, it is interesting to note that in October 2014 the Supreme Court heard 2 section 15(1) appeals involving adverse effects discrimination: Carter v Canada (Attorney General) and Taypotat v Taypotat, 2012 FC 1036, 2013 FCA 192; leave to appeal to SCC granted 2013 CanLII 83791 (SCC). This post will focus on Carter, a challenge to the ban on assisted suicide under the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, and the adverse effects discrimination arguments the Supreme Court is considering in that case. We acknowledge that the Court is far more likely to decide Carter on section 7 grounds—much of the Court’s focus during oral arguments was on whether the ban violates the rights to life and security of the person in ways that are arbitrary, overbroad or grossly disproportionate, contrary to the principles of fundamental justice (see Webcast of the Carter Hearing, October 15, 2014). Nevertheless, Carter raises important equality issues as well.

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Supreme Court of Canada grants Leave to Appeal in Daniels

Case commented on: Harry Daniels et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen as represented by The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development et al, 2013 FC 6, varied 2014 FCA 101; leave granted November 20, 2014 (SCC) (35945)

Yesterday the Supreme Court of Canada (Chief Justice McLachlin and Justices Cromwell and Wagner) agreed to hear Daniels, a case that raises the issue of whether Métis and non-status Indians fall within the scope of federal powers under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act 1867. For an ABlawg comment on the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal decisions, see here.

The panel’s decision reads as follows:

The motion of the intervener Métis National Council for an extension of time to serve and file a response to the application for leave to appeal and for leave to file a response to the application for leave to cross-appeal is granted.  The application for leave to appeal is granted with costs in any event of the cause. The application for leave to cross-appeal is granted.  A party having intervened in the Federal Court of Appeal and wishing to intervene before this Court shall seek leave to intervene.

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Bill 1, Respecting Property Rights Act: A Damp Squib and a Good Thing Too

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Bill 1, Respecting Property Rights Act: A Damp Squib and a Good Thing Too

Bill Commented On: Bill 1: Respecting Property Rights Act

The good news about Bill 1 for those with communitarian views is that Bill 1 does not change the law of Alberta one iota. The bad news about Bill 1 for those of a more libertarian persuasion is that Bill 1 does not change the law of Alberta one iota.

Here is the entire text of Bill 1 from its bizarre preambular provisions to its single operative clause:

Preamble

WHEREAS private ownership of land is a fundamental element of Parliamentary democracy in Alberta;

WHEREAS the Alberta Bill of Rights recognizes and declares the right of the individual to the enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law;

WHEREAS the Government is committed to consulting with Albertans on legislation that impacts private property ownership;

WHEREAS the Land Assembly Project Area Act was enacted by the Legislature in 2009 and was amended in 2011 but has not been proclaimed in force; and

WHEREAS the repeal of the Land Assembly Project Area Act reaffirms the government’s commitment to respect individual property rights;

THEREFORE HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, enacts as follows:

Land Assembly Project Area Act Repeal

  1. The Land Assembly Project Area Act, SA 2009 cL-2.5, is repealed.

This post addresses two questions. First, how is it that despite all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the introduction of this Bill, legally, it changes nothing? And second, why, at least in the opinion of this author, is that a good thing?

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Posted in Property | 2 Comments

Trinity Western… Again

By: Alice Woolley

PDF Version: Trinity Western… Again

I can’t stop thinking about the law society decisions on Trinity Western University (TWU). Part of the reason for that is the complexity and difficulty of the substantive issue raised by TWU’s proposed law school: the proper resolution of an irreducible conflict between equality rights and freedom of religion (I discuss that here). But as I spent the last few weeks teaching administrative law procedural fairness, I realized that the other thing bothering me about the law society decisions is the process used to reach them.

As far as I can tell, each law society that has independently considered TWU’s application for accreditation (or is likely to; Alberta delegated its decision to the Federation of Law Societies) has proceeded by way of a quasi-legislative process: TWU and other interested parties make submissions to a meeting of benchers, who then debate the question and vote. In April British Columbia benchers voted 20-6 against a motion barring TWU graduates from admission – a decision the benchers reversed in October following a referendum of its members. In Ontario benchers voted 28-21, with one abstention, to reject TWU’s application for accreditation (its process is discussed here). In Nova Scotia benchers voted 10-9 to make accreditation conditional on TWU withdrawing the community covenant which precludes LGBT students from attending.

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Posted in Ethics and the Legal Profession | 3 Comments

Ernst v Alberta Environment: The Gatekeeper Refuses to Strike or Grant Summary Judgment

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Ernst v Alberta Environment: The Gatekeeper Refuses to Strike or Grant Summary Judgment

Case Commented On: Ernst v Alberta Environment, 2014 ABQB 672

This short comment adds to the recent posts on ABlawg by Professor Martin Olszynski (here and here) and myself (here) on the Ernst litigation against Alberta Environment, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Encana Corporation concerning allegations of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Readers interested in more details on the substance of the litigation will find it here. My focus in this comment is on how Chief Justice Neil Wittmann applies the law on a motion to strike under Rule 3.68 and for summary judgment under Rule 7.3 of the Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 124/2010 (the Rules) to dismiss Alberta’s application. I also ask how we reconcile this decision from the motion to strike initiated by the AER/ERCB and the decision by Alberta courts to grant that application.

Recall that Ernst alleges that Alberta Environment and the AER owe her a duty of care and were negligent by failing to meet that duty. The AER successfully applied to have the Ernst proceedings struck for failing to disclose a reasonable cause of action (Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285 (Ernst II)). Ernst has applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal this Court of Appeal decision (See here).

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Regulatory Negligence Redux: Alberta Environment’s Motion to Strike in Fracking Litigation Denied

By: Martin Olszynski

PDF Version: Regulatory Negligence Redux: Alberta Environment’s Motion to Strike in Fracking Litigation Denied

Case Commented On: Ernst v EnCana Corporation, 2014 ABQB 672

This post follows up on a previous one regarding Ms. Ernst’s lawsuit against EnCana, the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB, now the AER) and Alberta Environment for the alleged contamination of her groundwater as a result of EnCana’s hydraulic fracturing activity (fracking) near Rosebud, Alberta. My first post considered the ERCB’s application to have the action against it struck, with respect to which it was successful (see 2013 ABQB 537 (Ernst I), affirmed 2014 ABCA 285 (Ernst II)). On November 7, 2014, Chief Justice Wittmann released the most recent decision (Ernst III) in what is shaping up to be the legal saga of the decade. Like the ERCB before it, Alberta Environment sought to have the regulatory negligence action against it struck on the basis that it owed Ms. Ernst no private law “duty of care” and that, in any event, it enjoyed statutory immunity. In the alternative, Alberta sought summary judgment in its favor. In contrast to his earlier decision agreeing to strike the action against the ERCB, the Chief Justice dismissed both applications.

In my previous post, I noted some inconsistencies between Ernst I and II with respect to the duty of care analysis and suggested that courts should strive to apply the applicable test (the Anns test) in a predictable and sequential manner, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Cooper v Hobbart, 2001 SCC 79 (still the authority for the content of that test in Canada) being valued first and foremost for bringing some much needed transparency to the exercise. In this respect, the Chief Justice’s most recent decision is exemplary. In this post, I highlight those aspects of the decision that help to explain the different result in this case, as well as those that in my view address some of the concerns I expressed in my previous post.

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