04 October 2013

Judge likens Alberta government to Duplessis regime

The tar sands gang does more than muzzle scientists. It also muzzles environmentalists. This came out loud and clear in a recent case before Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench.

Last year, the Oil Sands Environmental Coalition (OSEC), a group consisting of the Pembina Institute, the Alberta Wilderness Association and the Fort McMurray Environmental Association, filed a Statement of Concern with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to gain standing at the regulatory review of the second phase of Southern Pacific Resource’s proposed in situ tar sands project. OSEC was concerned about the project's use of up to 1.7 million litres of fresh groundwater every day, declining regional air quality, and the habitat of a threatened caribou herd. Their application was rejected.

They appealed to the courts and earlier this week the Court of Queen’s Bench revoked the government's decision. Justice Richard Marceau called the government’s actions “tainted" and concluded, “It is difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias.... [It] breaches all four principles of natural justice and must be quashed." In a particularly unkind cut, the judge compared the government's behaviour to that of the authoritarian regime of Maurice Duplessis in 1950's Quebec.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests had suggested OSEC was denied its application in part at least because of “recent oilsands publications” and the government’s perception that it was “less inclined to work cooperatively.”

Speaking for the Pembina Institute, Policy Director Simon Dyer commented, “It’s deeply troubling that the Government of Alberta would attempt to block participation in the regulatory process on grounds that Pembina has raised concerns of its oilsands management policies.” Deeply troubling indeed, surprising not at all.

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