“It is incredibly irresponsible and I think they’re trapped in an extremely ineffective strategy of damage control.” — Rachel Notley NDP MLA*
Environment Minister McQueen is back from her European junket. She’s had a few days to consider Justice Marceau’s decision which flayed her department for refusing to allow an environmental coalition (Pembina and Fort McMurray Environmental Association) to participate in an application for an oilsands project. Here’s what she has to say:
“My job is to make sure we allow [the directors] to do their job and that it goes through a proper process. And I think that’s what happened”.
Actually that’s not what happened. And the good judge, Justice Marceau, described in painstaking detail just how it didn’t happen when a director “hijacked” the government’s own approval process to deny the Pembina’s right to be heard by making up additional criteria to bar their eligibility to participate. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
However now that she’s out on the ledge there’s nowhere for Ms McQueen to go but step off into thin air. She argued that the fact that Pembina was able to take the case to court—and win—shows that the system is working:
“What’s important is that we have a process that allows for people, if they don’t like decisions, to really be able to appeal.”
Let’s analyze the PC’s damage control rationale (it’s certainly not a “strategy”).
- Justice Marceau said that the director of Environment violated the principles of natural justice when he refused to allow Pembina to participate in an oil sands application. Minister McQueen says the directors did their jobs properly. Rationale: Justice Marceau is wrong and the government is right.
- The government has a process that allowed Pembina to appeal being banned therefore the system is working. Ummm…that process is called “If you don’t like it, sue me!” The less expensive and speedier appeal process contained in the legislation does not apply in a situation like this where an intervener is denied the right to file a Statement of Concern in the first place. Rationale: very few interveners will have the money or the resources to launch a law suit to protect their right to be heard. So we’re good.
Damage control is effective only if it makes a modicum of sense. Justice Marceau’s decision stands as the law in Alberta unless and until it is overturned on appeal. Stamping one’s tiny foot and saying the law isn’t the law won’t cut it. But continuing to pursue this incoherent and irresponsible argument will conflate this issue into the PC’s very own “lakes of fire” moment–only this time the loony espousing the “law” as they see it is not a fringe candidate running for office in the hinterland but our very own Premier and her loyal cabinet ministers. Unbelievable!
*Calgary Herald, Oct 9, 2013, A4