The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the Impact Assessment Act, also known as Bill C-69, is unconstitutional. The law, which was given royal assent in 2019, has been deemed illegal because it grants federal authorities the power to halt projects for reasons beyond their jurisdiction. The ruling came in a 5-2 decision by the Court on Friday.
Bill C-69 replaced the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with a new regulatory body called the Impact Assessment Agency. This legislation forced the newly-created agency to consider factors such as climate change, public health, and the intersection of sex and gender before approving major energy projects. It also removed fixed deadlines for project approvals, leading to potential delays of years in the regulatory process.
The challenge against the law was initiated by the Alberta government in 2021, and it has been dubbed the “No More Pipelines Law.” Alberta has long been a stronghold for the oil and gas industry, and the province has opposed moves by the federal government to increase environmental regulations and transition to cleaner energy sources.
This ruling by the Supreme Court is a significant victory for Alberta and other provinces that have been critical of Bill C-69. It affirms their argument that the law infringes on provincial jurisdiction and interferes with their ability to control resource development within their borders.
However, not everyone agrees with the Court’s decision. Justice Sheila Greckol, one of the dissenting justices, expressed her concern about the current state of the planet and the urgent need for environmental protections. She wrote, “Our planet is on fire, and we need water – not heat.” This dissenting opinion reflects the ongoing debate about the balance between economic development and environmental sustainability.
The ruling raises questions about the future of the Impact Assessment Act and the regulatory framework for natural resource projects in Canada. The federal government may be required to amend the legislation to address the constitutional concerns identified by the Court.
The decision also has broader implications for Canada’s energy sector and its ability to attract investment. The uncertainty created by the law and now the Court’s ruling may deter companies from investing in major energy projects, potentially impacting economic growth and job creation.
Overall, the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Impact Assessment Act is unconstitutional is a significant development in the ongoing debate about resource development and environmental regulations in Canada. It underscores the complex and contentious nature of balancing economic interests with environmental protection and highlights the need for careful consideration and collaboration in shaping future policies.