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

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

Nuxalk Public Health Nurse Sophie Mack is all smiles as she vaccinates her dad, hereditary chief James Mack Sr., with his first dose of the Moderna vaccine (photo submitted)
Cases drop as vaccine continues to roll out in Bella Coola

Seniors at Mountain View Lodge, Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents have all started to receive their vaccines so far

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is displayed on Jan. 5, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Rick Bowmer/AP)
Power outage spoils COVID-19 vaccine at Tl’etinqox

Temperature-sensitive vaccine no longer viable after Jan. 18 event

Nuxalk elder Caroline Mack, 85, receives her first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Jan. 19, at the Nuxalk Hall. (Caitlin Thompson photo)
First vaccines roll out for Nuxalk elders, hospital staff and long-term care residents

The Moderna vaccine arrived in Bella Coola on Sunday, Jan. 17

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Most Read