Joining the protestors

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If you can’t beat’em – join’em.’  Last week, Lone Pine joined the protestors and launched its own protest. It’s on an issue dating back to the Magna Carta Libertatum.  The issue of whether the King’s powers are arbitrary or limited.

Lone Pine is not protesting in the streets or occupying city parks.  Rather, in another time honored approach, they are appealing for justice.  They filed a notice of intention to claim damages under the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”).

In 2010, the Government of Quebec confiscated the licenses of several oil and gas companies without compensation.  Lone Pine politely suggests this kind of behavior is arbitrary, capricious and illegal.  English barons suggested much the same thing to King John in 1215.

Interestingly concerned citizens protested natural gas development in Quebec at least in part because of the possibility of expropriation with full compensation. I agree it was a legitimate point to debate and I agree there might be a better process than the Expropriation Act of Quebec.  However, at least there is a process.

Yet almost no one in Quebec’s civil society made even a peep when an actual expropriation without compensation happened.  A public exception was Lucien Bouchard who had the courage to object at the National Assembly.  Incredibly the response was: industry’s legal arguments were entirely legitimate but Government’s arguments were more of a political nature.  It’s not unlike the Pope in 1215 who said King John’s arguments for arbitrary power were more of a religious nature.

According to Blakes, in modern Canada, “it is a fundamental legal principle that there must be no expropriation without compensation, unless there is clear and specific legislation to the contrary”.  The Quebec Government simply passed a new law that only technically met the requirement of being clear and specific. They just used a legal loop hole to get around 800 years of fundamental legal principle.

According to the Lone Pine lawyers, there are no simple loop holes like this in NAFTA. Sadly Quebecers including small Quebec based companies can’t rely on NAFTA.

You can be for a moratorium and against the oil and gas industry.  You can be for sustainable development and against expropriation.  You can be for an environmental study and against economic development.  But if you are for liberal democracy you have no choice but to be against arbitrary powers of Government.

Footnote:  Questerre was not affected by the expropriation and has no financial stake in the outcome.  Our only bias is that we don’t agree with expropriation without compensation for anyone in society.