Despite the Supreme Court of Canada ruling against Ottawa’s unconstitutional Impact Assessment Act, the federal government's commitment to an oil and gas cap and clean electricity regulations remains unwavering.
On October 16, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told The Globe and Mail he believes the ruling does not impact their plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions in oil and gas nor their efforts to transition power grids to ‘net zero’ by 2035.
“The opinion of the court does not call into question other regulatory initiatives under development, and we are confident that they are within the purview of the federal government,” he told the publication.
He claims the planned regulations for the oil and gas and electricity sectors use different federal powers than Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, referencing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
Specifically on the electricity regulations, Ottawa intends to restrict the use of natural gas and coal plants that do not use carbon capture by 2035 to reduce carbon emissions.
On the conventional oil cap, the Liberal government first pledged legislation in 2021, with subsequent target deadlines following 2030.
They hope to cut carbon emissions in the sector by half over the coming decade — approximately one-eighth of the country’s total emissions.
Guilbeault said his department has tried to frame the cap as being about limiting emissions, not production. The latter is the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.
“I mean, obviously, we're looking very carefully at what the Supreme Court did,” Guilbeault told reporters.
The October 13 Supreme Court decision said mandating federal reviews of pipeline projects strayed into provincial jurisdiction at times.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith contends capping emissions would force a cut in production.
In 2022, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) told Guilbeault that enforcing the cap would require companies to scale back oil production.
“But people shouldn't forget that there was another Supreme Court decision, which was not an opinion, last year on carbon tax, which made it very clear that the federal government can act when it comes to climate change,” added Guilbeault.
In 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the federal carbon tax, claiming carbon emissions exceed provincial boundaries, posing a national impact.