If Alberta and B.C. can’t work differences out like adults, Senator Doug Black believes it should be up to the federal government to step in for the sake of the country.
During a stop in the City of Lacombe on Friday, the senator described the relationship between the provinces over the Trans Mountain Pipeline to be like that of a bad marriage; trust has broken down and the project won’t move forward without some intervention, which he’s proposing through Bill S-245.
“I’m very keen the Trans Mountain Pipeline be built for the benefit of Albertans and the benefit of Canadians. It’s not going to get built by itself, so I’ve taken this action to have the pipeline declared to be for the general advantage of Canada,” he said. “This needs to get done because our prosperity is at risk.”
The project to get oil to tide water, under his bill, would fall completely under federal jurisdiction, with the laws of Vancouver, Burnaby and the province of B.C. as a whole nullified in order to push the pipeline ahead.
It’s a tactic that’s been used 400 times since confederation, but not in the last three to four decades. Cooperative federalism, where provinces helped each other get ahead, was reigning supreme, but no longer with the B.C. government’s attempts to block the pipeline.
“I think we need to use a little bit of muscle to say that this is going to be built for the advantage of Canada and anybody who’s going to get in the way of it getting built will be acting illegally,” he said.
The bill passed first reading, and is currently at the second reading stage. Black hopes that the bill as a whole passes within the next month, then head to the House of Commons.
First appointed to the senate under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2013, Black says he takes his job representing and advocating on behalf of Albertans seriously, often using time away from Ottawa to tour the province to listen to concerns of the people.
At the forefront of his visit in Lacombe was the issue of rural crime, which was talked about in a Friday morning meetings with City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey and Lacombe County Reeve Paula Law. While he admitted that he’d originally thought the issue could be solved with the addition of more police, he said that’s not the case and left the meetings “deeply concerned” about what he’d learned.
“We, in Canada, have fallen behind in the administration of justice,” he said.
“There is not enough resources at any level of the administration of justice whether that’s judges, police, courthouses. At this moment in time, it would appear that the criminal element is not being deterred, that rural crime is increasing and the brazenness of it is increasing.”
Alberta MPs started a petition to put pressure on the federal government to fill judicial vacancies – 13 in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and three in the Court of Appeal of Alberta, according to the province – immediately.
The number of vacancies, with the Jordan application, means hundreds of cases are being thrown out – including those for serious offences such as murder, manslaughter, sexual abuse and sexual interference – because the system hasn’t gotten to them in a timely fashion.
“The government of the day seems to understand that – they introduced a bill last week, which I haven’t studied yet, which is trying to address the problem,” said Black.
“My guess is it’s still a bit short on what needs to be done. There needs to be a holistic recognition that we’ve fallen behind in terms of the administration of justice.”
The pending legalization of cannabis could compound problems further, at least when it comes to enforcement.
Black says he believes the cannabis bill should advance, not only to keep money from cannabis out of “bad guys” hands, but to prevent criminal convictions as a result of cannabis use from putting the careers of young people at risk.
He recognizes, however, that there will be problems at the implementation level, and he has concerns about the extra demands on officers.
“Law enforcement and the police association are saying they’re happy to enforce it, but what are we enforcing and how do we test?” he said.
If you drink too much, you’re pull aside and the science tells you if you’ve had too much to drink. Apparently that technology doesn’t exist for marijuana….that’s a problem. They haven’t worked that out and that needs to be worked out pretty quickly.”