2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Monday, September 29, 2014

NEB decides that Trans Mountain - Burnaby dispute raises constitutional question

About a month ago, I posted about a fight going on before the National Energy Board between Trans Mountain Pipeline (Kinder Morgan) and the City of Burnaby with respect to property access for the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project.  At that time, the NEB sided with Trans Mountain in rejecting a request by Burnaby for answers to constitutional questions including whether a company's right to survey under Section 73 of the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act) could displace a municipality's by-laws.  The NEB said that Trans Mountain had not made any application for an order requiring Burnaby to allow access to City lands. 

My guess a month ago was that Trans Mountain would have to bring an application for access, and it has.  Now the NEB says that the constitutional question must be answered and has ordered that Trans Mountain provide the Notice of a Constitutional Question to be served on the attorneys-general of Canada and the provinces and territories.  The decision can be accessed at: Ruling No. 32.

Although the NEB continues to maintain its interpretation of Section 73 (i.e. that companies have a right to enter upon lands and complete surveys and examinations), it explains why the Burnaby situation raises a constitutional question:

The Board accepts that it has the authority to consider constitutional questions as they relate to its enabling legislation, pursuant to section 12. The Board can refuse to apply provisions within its enabling legislation if the Board determines that those provisions are contrary to constitutional law. However, this is not the relief requested by Trans Mountain from the Board, nor has Burnaby argued in this instance that the provisions of the NEB Act are unconstitutional.

While the draft order proposed by Trans Mountain does not specifically request that the Board order Burnaby to stop enforcing its by-laws, it is clear from the above quote that this is the desired effect of such an order. This may require the Board to find, either directly or indirectly, that, on the facts before it, legislation or by-laws enacted by another level of government are inapplicable to Trans Mountain and that, consequently, that government should be forbidden by the Board to take any actions to enforce those laws. In the Board’s view, this clearly raises a constitutional question.

This is a case to keep your eyes on.  Should NEB-regulated pipeline companies have a right to run roughshod over pre-existing municipal by-laws?