As reported on CBC News, Canada has been ordered to pay $7 million in damages, plus interest, to a U.S. concrete company that used the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to successfully argue it was wrongly denied permission to build a quarry in Nova Scotia.
The award falls far short of the $443 million in compensation the concrete company, Bilcon, was seeking.
Arbitrators released details about the award in the long-running case Monday.
Global Affairs Canada said it welcomed the arbitrator’s decision to “only award Bilcon a minimal portion of the damages it sought.”
“We are glad that the tribunal took into account Canada’s submissions on this matter. Canada is assessing the damages award,” spokesperson John Babcock said in a statement to CBC News.
“In the new NAFTA, we worked hard to remove the investor state dispute resolution system that companies like Bilcon have used to sue Canada. By removing this, we have strengthened the Canadian government’s right to regulate in the public interest.”
The dispute stemmed from a joint federal and provincial review panel recommendation in 2007 to reject an application by Bilcon to open a basalt quarry and marine terminal in Digby Neck, N.S.
The joint review panel said the proposed quarry compromised “community core values” — a vague criteria never actually raised at the panel hearing. Bilcon said it never had a chance to address that criteria.
Bilcon, which is owned by the Clayton Group of Companies in New Jersey, said as a result it was blindsided by the joint review panel. In 2008, it appealed using Chapter 11 investor protections in NAFTA.
By a two-to-one vote, a Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal ruled in 2015 that Canada’s environmental assessment was unfair to Bilcon.
The tribunal said the joint review panel did not properly assess the environmental effects of the proposed quarry and wrongly ignored mitigation measures.
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