Canada: Le Nouvel Accord Canada-Québec Sur Le Pétrole – Une « Entente Cordiale »?

Last Updated: August 5 2015
Article by Alan Ross

Most Read Contributor in Canada, November 2017

Le 24 mars 2011, les gouvernements du Canada et du Québec ont conclu un accord au sujet de la mise en valeur des ressources pétrolières du golfe Saint-Laurent (l'« Accord »)1. On pouvait y lire que « [le] Québec bénéficiera de l'ensemble des recettes propres aux ressources provenant de la mise en valeur des hydrocarbures [...], comme si les ressources étaient en milieu terrestre »2. L'Accord établit les objectifs qui doivent assurer la gestion conjointe de responsabilités en matière de réglementation des hydrocarbures et « promouvoir, à l'intérieur du mécanisme de gestion conjointe, autant que cela est possible, une approche cohérente avec les régimes de gestion [...] ailleurs que dans la Zone [visée par l'Accord] » 3.

Les principes qui sous-tendent l'Accord sont aujourd'hui mis de l'avant par le Projet de loi C-74 (la « Loi ») 4, dont l'objectif se lit comme suit :

La présente loi vise à encadrer la mise en valeur des hydrocarbures de la zone en favorisant notamment la transparence, la gestion rationnelle des ressources et les pratiques exemplaires afin d'assurer la sécurité des personnes et la protection de l'environnement tout en maximisant les avantages sociaux et économiques5.

Bref historique

La nécessité de l'Accord trouve son origine dans le partage des pouvoirs établi par la Constitution du Canada. On a de plus statué, dans l'affaire Reference re Offshore Mineral Rights, que le gouvernement fédéral a compétence sur le plateau continental et la mer territoriale6. Ainsi, comme le fait remarquer une société d'exploration, [traduction] « pour [que cette dernière] puisse procéder au forage autorisé par sa licence d'exploration du Québec, une entente entre le gouvernement de la province et le gouvernement fédéral est requise – entente qui exige du gouvernement fédéral la reconnaissance d'une telle licence » 7. L'Accord marque donc un jalon important pour la région et s'inscrit dans la foulée d'accords intervenus précédemment entre le Canada, la Nouvelle-Écosse et Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador.

Le Projet de loi C-74

En date de la présente annonce, la Loi n'a franchi que l'étape de la première lecture8. Son application ne se limite qu'à la zone de gestion conjointe, soit la zone du golfe Saint-Laurent définie à l'annexe 1 de la Loi, ainsi qu'à tout pipeline qui s'étend de la zone de gestion conjointe à tout autre endroit, dans la mesure où ce pipeline se trouve à l'intérieur des frontières du Québec. La Loi représente l'un des volets de la phase de transition prévue par l'Accord :

Pendant la première phase de transition «  préalable  », les deux gouvernements établiront une fonction réglementaire conjointe tenant compte des capacités réglementaires existantes des gouvernements. Lorsque des ressources pétrolières exploitables seront découvertes, une deuxième phase «  permanente  » sera lancée. Dans le cadre de cette phase, les deux gouvernements établiront ensemble un nouvel office indépendant des hydrocarbures extracôtiers au moyen de dispositions législatives supplémentaires9.

Pendant cette phase de transition, on crée le cadre nécessaire à la gestion conjointe : le ministre fédéral des Ressources naturelles ne peut prendre de règlements sans l'approbation des ministres provinciaux chargés de la gestion des ressources naturelles10; seules des modifications conjointes peuvent être apportées à l'Accord11; pour l'application de la Loi, les décisions qui relèvent des ministres sont prises conjointement12; et l'Office national de l'énergie et la Régie de l'énergie du Québec exercent conjointement les pouvoirs et fonctions que leur attribue la Loi13.

La collaboration et l'interdépendance recherchées se traduisent en outre par l'autorisation donnée aux ministres fédéral et provincial (les « ministres ») de mettre sur pied un Comité des hydrocarbures qui remplira des fonctions consultatives14. De plus, ces ministres approuveront tous deux la délivrance de titres à l'égard de la zone de gestion conjointe15.

Les membres du secteur de l'énergie constateront avec intérêt que la Loi adopte les normes relatives aux licences d'exploration en vigueur au Québec. Une licence d'exploration confère le droit exclusif d'exploiter les parties de la zone de gestion conjointe visées lorsque des hydrocarbures y sont trouvés16. Si aucune licence d'exploitation n'est en vigueur, un titre peut être octroyé au moyen du système d'appel d'offres fédéral17.

Depuis Old Harry et les restrictions imposées à la fracturation hydraulique, l'exploitation pétrolière et gazière demeure à la fois prometteuse et controversée au Québec. On ne sait pour l'instant si l'Accord parviendra à favoriser le secteur de l'énergie de la province, ni même s'il survivra aux élections fédérales prévues cet automne. BLG continue à suivre le processus entourant l'Accord et vous tiendra au courant de son évolution.

Footnotes

1.Accord entre le gouvernement du Canada et le gouvernement du Québec sur la gestion conjointe des hydrocarbures dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent (24 mars 2011).

2.Ibid au para 8.1.

3.Ibid au para 2j).

4.Canada, Projet de loi C-74, Loi portant sur la mise en Suvre de l'Accord entre le gouvernement du Canada et le gouvernement du Québec sur la gestion conjointe des hydrocarbures dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent et modifiant d'autres lois en conséquence, 2e session, 41e législature, 2015 (la « Loi »).

5.Ibid, a. 5.

6.Reference re Offshore Mineral Rights (British Columbia), [1967] RCS 792, 65 DLR (2d) 353.

7.Corridor Resources, « Exploration », en ligne : Corridor Resources Inc. <www.corridor.ca/oil-gas-exploration/>.

8.Corridor Resources, « Exploration », en ligne : Corridor Resources Inc. <www.corridor.ca/oil-gas-exploration/>.

9.Bureau du Premier ministre du Canada, « Accord Canada-Québec 2011 », en ligne : <http://www.pm.gc.ca/fra/nouvelles/2014/10/14/accord-canada-quebec>. Se reporter aussi au préambule de la Loi, supra note 4.

10.La Loi, supra note 4, a. 7.

11.Ibid,a. 13.

12.Ibid,a. 17.

13.Ibid,a. 18.

14.Ibid,a. 26.

15.Ibid,a. 40.

16.Ibid,a. 48. Se reporter à la loi québécoise correspondante, la Loi sur les mines, RLRQ, c. M-13.1, a. 194.

17.Ibid,a. 40. Se reporter à la loi équivalente, la Loi fédérale sur les hydrocarbures, LRC (1985), c. 36 (2e suppl.), a. 14.

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