A judge has given the Alberta government 10 days to make a decision on an oilsands project that has raised concern from a nearby First Nation.

"There is a strong public interest in encouraging a timely cabinet decision. The balance of convenience supports an injunction," Calgary Court of Queen's Bench Justice Barbara Romaine said Tuesday.

But the province said hours later than Romaine's ruling would be appealed.

"Government has received today’s ruling and after review will be appealing this decision," said Kavi Bal of Alberta Energy.

Prosper Petroleum Ltd. had asked the court to force the United Conservative government to rule on a project that was initially proposed in 2013 and approved by the Alberta Energy Regulator in June 2018.

The 10,000-barrel-a-day, steam-driven Rigel oilsands project would be built in the Moose Lake area, about 70 kilometres northwest of Fort McMurray.

The region is sacred to the Fort McKay First Nation. The band is surrounded on three sides by oilsands developments and it says Moose Lake is the last place where it can pursue traditional activities.

An agreement to protect the area was reached under former Alberta premier Jim Prentice but was never ratified.

The region was the subject of a high-level meeting between Indigenous leaders and members of the provincial cabinet recently. The two sides agreed to meet in April to decide the fate of Moose Lake.

Romaine pointed out that, on average, it takes the Alberta cabinet seven months to make a decision on a project such as Rigel, and the delay seems unreasonable.

"The Crown has refused to give specific reasons for the lengthy delay, citing cabinet confidentiality. It submits that I must assume that cabinet is acting in the public interest with no evidence to support that assumption."

Brad Gardiner, president of Prosper Petroleum, said he was relieved by the ruling.

"This has been a very slow, frustrating process. But at least we know 10 days from now we're going to have a decision, positive or negative, but at least we'll have a decision," Gardiner said outside court.

He said the project can still be salvaged, but it's running out of time.

"That's why we pressed for getting a decision as quick as possible. In our evidence we said we need to have a decision by the end of February or we're going to miss a third winter construction season.

"The longer you delay and the more money you lose, you reach a point where you say, 'Why are we doing this?' We need to get out there and get started on this project."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2020

Wow. In the midst of the pipeline crisis in BC that has stalled railroads across Canada, with Kenney and his cohorts screaming for "something to be done", for Trudeau to find the "guts" to do something, here we find the UCP of all things, hiding in a corner, afraid to make a decision - because they KNOW the decision will pour gas on a burning fire. Sometimes, the hypocrites get exposed.

The UCP incompetence and cowardice is one thing but Brad Gardiner and Prosper Petroleum is quite another. No doubt this company, or its predecessors have been sitting on this "patch" of oil sands wonering if they made and awful investment or not. As crude prices sink and oil sands bitumen struggles to find markets globally the economic sense of this "project" leaks away like and aging pipeline.

And what of the Fort Mckay First Nation? Is "Prosper" prepared to buy out this oil sands land locked reserve and resettle the Nation elsewhere? Just exactly elsewhere will they go?

The entire oil sands boom, looks like a slow, fossilized tar pit of a disaster.