Despite strenuous and prolonged opposition from environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and internationally, and two days before a deadline imposed by Texas corporation Kinder Morgan, Canada’s Liberal government announced on May 29 that it will spend $4.5 billion to buy the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and its associated infrastructure, so that a pipeline expansion can proceed under the ownership of a Crown corporation. The press release is here ; details of the transaction are here in a Backgrounder ; the text of the speech by Finance Minister Bill Morneau is here . Repeating the mantra of the Trudeau government, Morneau claims that the project is in the national interest, will preserve jobs, will reassure investors and improve the price for Canadian oil by expanding its market beyond the U.S. Morneau says the federal government does not plan to be a long-term owner and is in negotiations with interested investors, including Indigenous communities, pension funds (notably the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board) and the Alberta government.
In fact, the expansion pipeline, if built, would almost triple the amount of dilbit transported from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day, and increase tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast from approximately five to 34 tankers a month. As recently as May 24, an Open Letter coordinated by Oil Change International and signed by over 200 groups summed up the situation, stating there is a “…. clear contradiction between Prime Minister Trudeau’s unchecked support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline project and his commitments to Indigenous reconciliation through the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and his obligation to address climate change through the Paris Agreement.” The letter notes that currently planned Canadian oil production would use up 16% of the world’s carbon budget to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees, or 7% of the budget for 2 degrees. Canada has less than 0.5% of the world’s population.
Today’s initial reaction to the government’s decision has called it “astounding”, “shameful”, and an “historic blunder”. From the CBC: “Liberals to buy Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5B to ensure expansion is built” and “ Bill Morneau’s Kinder Morgan surprise comes with huge price tag, lots of political risk: Chris Hall”. From The National Observer “Trudeau government to buy troubled Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion” ; “BC Will Continue Legal Strategy to Oppose Pipeline After Federal Purchase, Premier Says” in The Tyee . Toronto’s Globe and Mail posted at least 6 items on the decision , including an Explainer , and Jeff Rubin’s Opinion: “Morneau had better options for Canada’s Energy sector” .
From Greenpeace Canada: “Federal government volunteers to “captain the Titanic of tar sands oil pipelines” and risks $4.5B of Canadians’ money in the process” ; and West Coast Environmental Law reaction points out that “There are currently 14 legal challenges before the Federal Court of Appeal, alleging that the government failed in its constitutional duty to consult First Nations about the Trans Mountain project, and that the federal review had other regulatory flaws. Success in just one of those challenges could derail the underlying federal approvals.”
In the Victoria Times Colonist, “Green Party Leader May calls pipeline decision ‘historic blunder’” ; John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, released an official statement , and a jubilant Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is profiled in the CBC story, ” ‘Pick up those tools, folks, we have a pipeline to build,’ Alberta premier says “. Reaction from B.C. First Nations leaders is compiled in this CBC story.
Social media reaction, as compiled by CBC , is here . The Dogwood Initiative has mounted a “Time for Bill Morneau to go” online petition here ; SumofUs has an online petition here, to urge the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board not to invest in Kinder Morgan. Direct emails can be sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at firstname.lastname@example.org . Opposition continues and the story is not over.