Alberta’s MLAs returned to the Legislature Tuesday and Premier Jason Kenney wasted no time in responding to the loss of a $20-billion project over the weekend.
The government tabled Bill 1: Critical Infrastructure Defense Act in direct response to Teck Resources’ decision to withdraw its regulatory application for the Frontier Project and railway blockades set up by people in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders.
Kenney announced he would table the bill during a press conference in reaction to the Teck withdrawal on Monday. Introducing the bill in the legislature on Tuesday, Kenney referred to the blockades as a form of “lawlessness.”
“In recent weeks we have seen lawlessness jeopardize the Canadian economy, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs here in Alberta and across the dominion,” he said. “Mr. Speaker, this is making a mockery of the principal of the rule of law, one of the foundational principles of our democratic life together.”
The new bill prohibits anyone without “lawful right, justification or excuse” from entering on, destroying or interfering with the construction, maintenance or use of any essential infrastructure. A whole list of infrastructure is defined as essential in the bill, including railways, highways, oil sand sites and dams.
“The government tables this legislation to strengthen penalties against those who would lawlessly trespass upon or jeopardize public safety by seeking to block critical, public infrastructure, including roadways, railways and other important infrastructure,” Kenney continued. “This reinforces public safety, it increases the dissuasive effect of law against those who would seek to hold us all jeopardy to their radical demands.”
Those found in violation of the legislation may be arrested without a warrant, and if it is their first offence can face fines of $1,000 to $10,000 and/or up-to six months jail time. For a second or any additional offences, those found in violation face fines of $1,000 to $25,000 and/or up-to six months jail time. Each day someone is found in contravention of the legislation is considered a separate offence.
Corporations found in violation may be charged up to $200,000.
The first reading of Bill 1 passed soon after Kenney introduced it.