Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Alta., Thursday, April 6, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Oil would still be landlocked under ‘Wexit,’ experts say

B.C, or Canada, could still stand in the way of exporting oil to the coast

International trade experts say it’s a pipe dream to think the landlocked oil-producing western provinces would have an easier time getting their product to international markets if they were to split from Canada.

“Wexit” — an apparent play on the word ”Brexit” used to describe the United Kingdom’s planned departure from the European Union — was trending on social media after the Liberals secured a minority government in last week’s federal election, but were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Peter Downing, a founder of the western separatist movement that wants a referendum on separation, has said an independent country in the middle of the Prairies could leverage the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to gain coastal pipeline access.

“We have more freedom as an independent country to get our resources to the coast than as part of Canada,” he said the day after the election.

“We’ll have the best of both worlds: We’ll keep our money and we’ll have access to the coast.”

The UN convention, adopted in 1982, does say that “landlocked states shall enjoy freedom of transit through the territory of transit states by all means of transport.”

However, it goes on to say that terms “shall be agreed between the landlocked states and transit states concerned through bilateral, subregional or regional agreements,” and that transit states have the right to ensure their “legitimate interests” aren’t infringed upon.

“It’s not an unqualified right. They can’t just say, ‘OK, we need to get through here,’” said Silvia Maciunas, a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.

“They have to talk to the other state, which would be Canada.”

The “means of transport” in the convention refers to railways, waterways, roads and even porters and pack animals, but the treaty specifies that landlocked and transit states would have to agree to add pipelines to the list.

Landlocked countries such as Ethiopia and Switzerland have long had agreements to use ports in other countries.

Bolivia, on the other hand, lost its ocean access in a war with Chile in the 1800s and has been fighting to regain it ever since. The International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled last year that Chile has no obligation to engage in talks with Bolivia.

“Had the court ruled in the favour of Bolivia, Chile would have theoretically been obligated to enter into ‘good faith’ negotiations, whatever the heck that means,” said Carlo Dade, director of the Trade and Investment Centre at the Canada West Foundation.

“You can imagine how that would play out up here if Alberta, Saskatchewan leave … We’ve seen enough out of B.C. to know how that would play out,” said Dade.

The British Columbia government has resisted, primarily through court actions, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would triple the amount of crude shipped between Alberta and the Lower Mainland.

Add to that there is no real enforcement mechanism through the international court, Dade said.

“The only thing the ICJ gives you is the ability to go from saying, ‘Please give us access’ to ‘Pretty please give us access.’”

READ MORE: ‘The West Wants Out’: Wexit rallies planned in Alberta as separatist momentum grows

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Health care priorities debated following surprise funding announcement

Surprise provincial funding stirs debate on local health care priorities during regional meeting

Fernie treated to a Tiny Concert in the Park

Shred Kelly members Tim Newton and Sage McBride played a live concert for the first time since February

Community groups receive funding through annual CFKR grants

Groups throughout the entire Elk Valley were supported through this year’s round of funding

Local author launches first novel

The Frigid Pass is a dystopian novel set in Cranbrook, British Columbia

Major construction project to begin in Sparwood

Residents will notice crews working throughout August and September this year

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Infamous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and other destinations

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

COVID-19 could mean curtains for film and TV extras

Background performers worry they’re being replaced by mannequins on film and TV sets

Laid-off B.C. hotel workers begin hunger strike demanding job protection

Laid-off workers not sure what they’ll do when government support programs end

‘Huckleberry’ the bear killed after B.C. residents admit to leaving garbage out for videos

North Shore Black Bear Society said it was local residents who created a ‘death sentence’ for bear

Researchers find cannabis use in pregnancy linked to greater risk of autism

Researchers caution findings only show association — not cause and effect

Small Manitoba town mourning after well-liked teens killed by tornado

Melita residents feeling profound grief after the deaths of Shayna Barnesky and Carter Tilbury

Antonio Banderas says he’s tested positive for coronavirus

Acclaimed actor celebrating his 60th birthday in quarantine

Most Read