Source: X

The Alberta government is considering employing its Sovereignty Act to stop what it’s calling a federal “gag order” on oil companies publicizing their environmental achievements. 

The federal government’s proposed Bill C-59, which is awaiting Senate approval, would force companies publicizing their environmental actions to prove their words against an undefined “internationally recognized methodology.”

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Minister Rebecca Schulz said the bill will clear the way for environmental activists to sue oil and gas companies over so-called “misleading environmental benefits.”

“C-59, put plain and simply, is an undemocratic gag order,” Schulz said in a statement. “It must be stopped.”

As Alberta considers its legal options, Schulz said they haven’t ruled out utilizing the Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act — Premier Danielle Smith’s flagship legislation which seeks to bar federal bills deemed harmful to the province. 

Schulz also said the bill could be subject to a constitutional challenge, though that could take years to settle in court long after the bill becomes law. 

Bill C-59 proposes initial fines of $10 million, or three times the benefit gained by so-called “deception” of oil companies talking about their environmental record without adequate proof. Companies found guilty a second time of not being able to back up their environmental achievements would be subject to a $15 million fine. 

Part of the concern lies with the legislation’s unclear conditions. 

Companies wishing to defend their environmental record will have to prove their claims can be substantiated by what the federal government calls an “internationally recognized methodology,” which Schulz called “a vague and undefined phrase that creates needless uncertainty for businesses.”

“Any company not willing to risk millions of dollars in fines and legal fees will be forced to stay silent,” she said. “And that is exactly the outcome that Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and the federal Liberal-NDP-Bloc Québécois alliance wants to happen.”

The proposal comes after NDP MP Charlie Angus tabled a bill in February that would jail oil executives for speaking about the benefits of fossil fuels.

“The Big Tobacco moment has finally arrived for Big Oil. We need to put human health ahead of the lies of the oil sector,” Angus told the House at the time. 

 That bill died, but echoes of it appeared in Bill C-59, which would implement a host of provisions set out in the fall economic statement. 

Angus has said he will not run for reelection in the next federal vote.