NationTalk – This omnibus bill 22 includes amendments that would make the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) the sole judge of the public interest for all Albertans, allowing the elected government to cut itself out of the decision-making process. This means the AER will be the final decision maker about impacts to Treaty rights and the cumulative effects of development in our Traditional Territory. These are both matters the regulator has previously said are outside its mandate and for which it has no expertise.
In April 2020, the Alberta Court of Appeal threw out the AER’s approval of Prosper Petroleum’s Rigel project with strong language about the AER’s failure to enforce promises made under Treaty 8, and its failure to uphold the Honour of the Crown. Prosper’s project would have threatened the ecological and cultural integrity of the area around our Moose Lake reserves, one of the last unspoiled wildernesses in our Traditional Territory, and central to our ability to practice constitutionally recognized Treaty rights. Fort McKay was forced to take the AER to court and is shocked that after such serious criticism from the highest court in Alberta, the government is rewarding this tribunal with even more power.
Fort McKay and other First Nations will now be forced to turn to the courts even more often to resolve these regulatory and constitutional conflicts. Rather than reducing red tape, this actually increases uncertainty and delay for industry, something both government and AER say they want to avoid.
“If the AER becomes the final authority on oil sands projects, it must be demonstrably neutral in all matters before it. It must be more open, transparent, and accountable. It must improve its ability to understand and make the right decisions related to Treaty rights. It must behave like a quasi-judicial body, with the strict independence of a court, and it must not act like a friend to industry. The AER must learn the new rules quickly or its decisions will be challenged and overruled by the courts time and again”.