Ottawa Greenlights Alberta’s Bid to Build Highways Without Review Required Under Bill C-69

EDMONTON—Alberta’s Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen has been given the green light by his federal counterpart to forego assessments required under the Impact Assessment Act, also known as Bill C-69, to build highways.

Dreeshen met with federal Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Dominic LeBlanc at the federal-provincial-territorial infrastructure ministers’ meeting in Moncton, N.B., on Nov. 7.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, Dreeshen said he told LeBlanc it doesn’t make sense for Alberta to spend “five plus years” waiting for land assessments required under C-69 before building multiple highways.

“It was reassuring that the federal minister, Dominic LeBlanc, agreed,” he said. “I thought that was a huge win coming from that meeting.”

Dreeshen said Alberta wants to build multiple highways over 200 kilometres to strengthen its economic corridors. That includes Highway 686 in Fort McMurray, Highway 88 in the west, and Highway 28 in the eastern part of the province.

Epoch Times Photo
A vehicle on the Trans-Canada Highway passing through Canmore, Alta., on May 30, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)

Under the federal government’s Impact Assessment Act, pipelines, mines, and highways over 75 kilometres must undergo a federal land assessment. The legislation, which was proposed as Bill C-69 and received royal assent in 2019, set up a new authority to assess industrial projects’ impacts on public health, the environment, and the economy.

“That’s anywhere from up to five plus years of redundant, unconstitutional review,” Dreeshen said.

But with LeBlanc’s blessing, the province will now go ahead with construction once the Treasury Board approves the projects, he said.

Access to Tidewater

Dreeshen was put in charge of the transportation file on Oct. 21, when new Alberta Premier Danielle Smith named her first cabinet. He said he’s working on building relationships with the federal government, other provinces, and the United States—relationships Alberta requires to ship its resources, being one of just two landlocked provinces in Canada.

“We have to go through at least two other levels of government to get to tidewater,” he said.

In a letter dated Oct. 24, Smith asked the premiers of Saskatchewan and Manitoba for a meeting in the town of Churchill, Manitoba, to discuss working together “to push for a renewed look at the Port of Churchill,” along with the possibility of pipelines to the port. She said she wants to use the port to ship more Western Canadian products.

The port sits on the edge of Hudson Bay and is Canada’s only Arctic port serviced by a rail line.

Dreeshen said the government is in discussion with developers who can “see the benefits” of the corridor.

“There’s been a lot of interested parties,” he said.

The proposal was met with caution from Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, who said “there are more pressing things for us to be dealing with right now,” at a press conference on Oct. 31.  The same day, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe told reporters he’s supportive of efforts to expand services in Churchill.

Dreeshen said he’s keeping an open line of communication with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Ottawa to determine what’s needed to get the project rolling.

“That’s something that we want to be able to work with these other levels of government to make sure that we can try to strengthen this corridor, because it could be a major, major port and source for tidewater,” he said.

Rachel Emmanuel


Rachel Emmanuel covers federal and Alberta politics.

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