Moe says Supreme Court ruling on environment law should cause feds to rethink

Premier Scott Moe reacted Friday to a Supreme Court ruling, which found the part of the federal Impact Assessment Act unconstitutional. Michelle Berg/Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Brandon Harder, Regina Leader-Post

Saskatchewan’s Premier reacted Friday to news that the country’s top court decided that a portion of a federal environment law was unconstitutional.

“This should cause the federal government to rethink the many other areas where it is overstepping its constitutional competence, like electrical generation and oil and gas production,” Moe stated, in a post on X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act, enacted by Parliament in 2019, was released Friday.

The law changed the federal government’s role in relation to natural resource projects.

An overview of the decision from the top court outlines that the federal law sought to “establish a complex information gathering and regulatory scheme” in two parts.

The first part dealt with federal projects on federal land or outside of Canada, requiring the federal authority responsible to “decide if the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

The second part brought what the law considered “designated projects” under federal review. This is the part the Supreme Court found unconstitutional for being “ultra vires,” meaning it was deemed to be “beyond Parliament’s legislative authority under the Constitution.”

Moe’s response found common ground with Opposition energy and resources critic Aleana Young who said “Saskatchewan New Democrats have long maintained that this legislation inappropriately encroaches into Saskatchewan’s jurisdiction over natural resource development, which was enshrined in the constitution by NDP premier Allen Blakeney.

“We welcome this decision today from the Supreme Court of Canada,” Young said.

Politicians from outside Saskatchewan also weighed in on the Supreme Court decision. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, in conjunction with that province’s minister of justice, released a joint statement.

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision confirming the unconstitutionality of the federal government’s destructive Bill C-69 legislation. This legislation is already responsible for the loss of tens of billions in investment as well as thousands of jobs across many provinces and economic sectors,” the statement read.

It went on to state that the ruling was also a win for “sovereign provincial rights under the Constitution.”

Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor was the one to get the legal ball rolling in relation to the federal law, by asking its provincial Court of Appeal to determine whether the it was unconstitutional. That court found the law unconstitutional in its entirety, and the federal government appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The Premier has in the past blamed federal environmental and energy policy for stoking division between provincial governments and Ottawa.

In November 2022, his government introduced the Saskatchewan First Act, which Moe described as “shielding us from this jurisdictional sword that the federal government is waving around in policies, like the clean electricity standard.”