On the cusp of the next Trans Mountain decision

Canadian politics has an unhealthy fixation on the profits associated with fossil fuel production and use. It’s the threat of losing those that is always evoked by pro-fossil interests when they are asserting that this or that piece of new fossil fuel infrastructure (this pipeline, that bitumen mine or in situ extraction project) needs to be built.

This analysis of course misses the climatic impacts on third parties. Oil advocates want to think of the transaction as just a happy buyer and a happy seller, ignoring the people losing their homes, financial security, and even their lives because the climatic stability that we have depended on for millennia is being disrupted and destabilized by fossil fuel use. These risks aren’t notional or set in the future, but happening now as this CBC article illustrates: ‘It’s a problem for society’: Climate change is making some homes uninsurable.

Tomorrow the Trudeau government is expected to announce the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion into B.C. Whether it is later stopped by public protest, the courts, or other means or not, I think it will cement the view that rather than trying to seek a sensible compromise the Trudeau Liberals chose a fundamentally incoherent strategy. It makes no sense to try to gently decrease economy-wide oil demand with a carbon price as a route to decarbonization while simultaneously approving projects that would only have a viable role in a future where we choose to ignore climate change. If we end up with an Andrew Scheer Conservative government it will be even worse, both for a fossil fuel industry which misunderstands the fundamental problem it is facing and to Canada’s economy as a whole, but that’s not necessarily enough to save Trudeau, especially while Canada’s relatively pro-decarbonization left is fragmented into support for Greens, the NDP, and Liberals.


Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

30 thoughts on “On the cusp of the next Trans Mountain decision”

  1. Trans Mountain: Elizabeth May and David Suzuki Raise Concerns

    In a news conference on Parliament Hill, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, environmentalist David Suzuki, and Green Party MP Paul Manly outline their opposition to the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The Trudeau government is expected to reach a final decision on the pipeline by June 18.

    Cabinet originally approved the expansion in 2016 but a federal court ruling overturned that decision in August 2018, citing inadequate environmental reviews and the need for further consultation with Indigenous communities. Meanwhile, in May 2018, with the future of the expansion in doubt, the federal government announced that it would purchase the project from Kinder Morgan Canada for $4.5 billion.

  2. “Unlike the federal government, Tsleil-Waututh updated our economic analysis since the Federal Court of Appeal decision, and it demonstrates the Trans Mountain Expansion Project is uneconomic. Our independent cost/benefit analysis of the project, consistent with Ottawa’s benefit/cost guidelines, found the government-owned Trans Mountain Expansion Project results in a loss to Canadian taxpayers of $11.8-billion, and that there is no likely scenario under which the project would generate a net benefit to Canada.

    This is because the economic landscape has changed substantially since the NEB issued its first report regarding the project in 2016. Recently, the Bank of Canada issued a financial system review that warned about stranded assets in the oil and gas sector due to climate-related risk.

    Our analysis confirms that the pipeline is not in the public interest, nor can it justify the economic burdens the pipeline would pose. We have shared this information with the federal government, who continue to rely on outdated economic information.”

  3. My thoughts on the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion

    Jody Wilson-Raybould

    Here is what I expect to happen tomorrow. The government will say further court-ordered consultations with Indigenous peoples have taken place, and that the effects on the marine environment have been addressed. And having done this work, and imposed further conditions, the project is, once again, approved. The immediate response to this decision will be the filing of multiple lawsuits against the government’s decisions. And being truthful, if the past is any precedent – and in no way condoning or encouraging the breaking of the law – there will be a rapid mobilization of on the ground conflict that will foster cycles of tensions. As a result, Canadians will be further divided. While there will be photo-ops and talk of “getting shovels in the ground”, no one will be able to say with certainty when – or if – actual pipe will be laid and if any product will ever flow through it.

    Given this unfortunate reality, a better approach, in my view, is to acknowledge the broken context, and not proceed with TMX at this time. This approach requires leadership, collaboration and commitment along with bold and concrete plans that actually reset the direction of our energy future in a way Canadians can trust and get behind – from coast-to-coast-to-coast. What are your thoughts?

  4. Initial construction on TMX in B.C. given green light

    Some introductory work on the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline is finally moving ahead after the company in charge was given permission to build some temporary sites along the route.

    TMX says the sites, in Kamloops, Merritt, Hope and Abbotsford, will be stockpiles for pipe and other materials needed for construction.

    Back in June, the company told the National Energy Board that it needed to begin construction by August 5 to avoid further delays by missing the current season.

    Officials say they want to avoid the rainy season in British Columbia and keep the commitments they made to protect fish species.

    Ian Anderson, Trans Mountain’s president and CEO, told CTV News the real work could also begin in September.

  5. First came news the budget for TMX had soared from its original $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion, mainly because of delays, litigation and additional security costs. Announced in 2012, TMX was supposed to have been operational by the end of 2017. But it ran into non-stop legal challenges — 17 and counting — from climate and Aboriginal groups. As opponents have become more militant, security costs have soared from $20 million to $200 million. When the Trudeau government bought TMX from Kinder Morgan, it promised to sell the pipeline once it was completed. The government bought it for $4.5 billion. Will there really be buyers at $12.6 billion dollars? Or will Canadian taxpayers take a fearsome haircut?

    This 70 per cent cost over-run confirms to TMX’s opponents that their death-by-delay “lawfare” is working. Even worse, it confirms to international investors that Canadian energy projects have become risky business.

  6. The federal government says no more public funds will be spent on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, after the Crown corporation building the project announced Friday that the cost has ballooned to $21.4-billion and the expansion now won’t be complete until late 2023.

    That’s close to a 70-per-cent jump over the initial $12.6-billion price tag, and almost a year later than the original December, 2022, start date targeted by Trans Mountain Corp.


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