Evan Saugstad: B.C. plays the hypocrite in pipeline lawsuit drama


The headline read, “David Eby announces cap on expert witnesses to address losses at ICBC.” As B.C.’s Attorney General, Eby made this announcement in February as he tries to bring our Insurance Corporation of BC, a Crown corporation, back to profitability.

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ICBC has lost a bundle of money during the past few years, and if those losses go unchecked, we as taxpayers will eventually be on the hook for those losses, or see our already high auto insurance rates go even higher.

Good on him, and about time. I can follow his rationale as the use and misuse of expert witnesses in settling disputed injury claims just drives the cost of insurance up, and then I have to pay.

Simple economic theory is that if the costs are reduced, the cost of doing business will follow, and hence, lower insurance rates for the good drivers. I hope he’s correct. We could all use a break on insurance rates.

But, this is only part of my story. This is also story is about how Eby and Premier John Horgan can’t stop being hypocrites.

A second headline reads, “Court rejects B.C.’s request to declare Alberta oil export law unconstitutional.”

In this story, an Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench judge dismissed the B.C. government’s request to declare an Alberta law unconstitutional. This court case was about whether Alberta could restrict the flow of refined oil products to B.C. on the Trans Mountain Pipeline system.

Although I don’t know what we paid for this court challenge, I can only surmise it was substantial. Given the nature of this claim, it would have required hours and hours of work by endless legal experts, all being paid handsomely.

First hypocrisy: As minister responsible for ICBC, it is OK to limit someone else’s use of experts and the courts, to reduce costs associated with your portfolio. As Attorney General, it is OK to spend whatever it takes to accomplish a personal objective; OK to use as many experts as you see fit in trying to win your political argument; OK to try to frustrate a project that is in the national interest of all of Canada; and OK to foist these costs back onto taxpayers in two provinces.

But it doesn’t end there.

A third headline reads, “BC takes pipeline fight to court, asking for power to restrict oil shipments.”

This case is about asking the courts to review B.C.’s proposed regulations to restrict oil (i.e., unrefined fossil fuel products) from flowing through the Trans Mountain Pipeline. All this slightly disguised to save B.C.’s environment and economy from certain ruin. No ruling yet.

Second hypocrisy: More of the same so-called experts being paid and involved as part of this case. And, there is more.

We, with David and John leading the charge, are asking the courts to instruct Alberta to not have the ability to choose just what fossil fuel they wish to allow into a pipeline on their side of the border.

At the same time, we are asking a different court to instruct Alberta that B.C. can decide what comes out the other end of the pipe in B.C.

David and John, here’s some Pipeline 101: What goes in one end of a pipeline should be the same product that comes out the other end. If it’s different, then that’s truly magical.

Now, my headline: “Court rules that what goes into one end of a pipeline, must come out the other end.”

And my advice:

"Dear Honorable David and Premier John,

Please review your policy on the use of courts and expert witnesses. Looks like it’s working well to reduce ICBC’s costs and increase your profits, and hence, reduce my insurance rates.

Why not take a page out this playbook and apply it to pipelines?

Stop spending all of our ICBC savings on your own personal court cases just so you can keep a political dream alive. There are cheaper and simpler ways to solve our problems and get you off the hook.

Instead of hiring more lawyers and experts, why don’t you ask Premier Rachel Notley and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganley of Alberta, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Honourable David Lametti of Canada, all to appear before the same court, each as representatives of your own jurisdictions. Give yourselves a couple hours to present your cases, then let the judge settle the matter.

Isn’t this how our parents settled our childish disagreements?

It’s also cheap. You all are worth less than you pay your own lawyers; efficient, as a decision can be rendered in one day; and simple, as you all can talk about what matters)

Thanks, and in the meantime, I sure wish that Metro Vancouver doesn’t run out of fuel. This winter does seem to be a bit cold."

Evan Saugstad is a former mayor of Chetwynd, and lives in Fort St. John.  

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