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Federal Coalition Government Plans New Gag Law on Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Companies

Energy Companies will Face Scrutiny “Unique in the Business World” and Initial Fines of up to $10 Million.

Recently, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to express Saskatchewan’s profound alarm over the federal omnibus Fall Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2023 (Bill C-59).

New amendments to the federal Competition Act will enable environmental activists to ‘complaint swarm’ and bring applications before the Competition Tribunal, which could result in maximum fines to companies between $10-$15 million (or three per cent of their annual gross revenues), simply for advertising their sustainability records or defending the energy sector.

“The federal government has taken Charlie Angus’ private member’s bill, The Fossil Fuels Advertising Act, and incorporated it into government legislation,” Eyre Said. “It introduces new liability based on vague, subjective requirements for which a company must carry the full burden of proof.”

The reverse onus amendments will subject companies to punitive financial penalties if they assert their environmental records without “adequate and proper substantiation in accordance with internationally-recognized methodology, the proof of which lies on the person making the representation”.

“This Bill was rushed, included no consultation with provinces and, if passed, will have irreparably harmful consequences on Saskatchewan’s businesses and economy,” Eyre said. “Companies will be intimidated from making any environmental claims or even pursuing positive climate actions, given the unnecessary and excessive risks involved.”

The Government of Saskatchewan is currently considering all options to fight Bill C-59, including under the Saskatchewan First Act.

Bill C-59 is currently at second reading before the Canadian Senate.

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