Skip to content

Speculation grows that Trudeau will approve 890,000 bpd Trans Mountain pipeline

Council of Canadians organizer AJ Klein at the Burnaby Mountain protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline, November 2014.

There is speculation that the Trudeau government is likely to approve the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline on Monday December 19.

Bloomberg News reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to approve at least one new oil pipeline project in his first term, with Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain expansion to the Pacific Coast the most likely candidate, people familiar with his plans said. …Kinder’s proposal is seen as likeliest to win approval despite opposition among key figures in vote-rich Vancouver, the people said. The Trans Mountain expansion already has conditional regulatory sign-off from the National Energy Board. …Trudeau’s government believes it must demonstrate to investors the country is capable of reaching consensus to build major energy projects.”

The article adds, “The government hopes to approve one project before the next election in 2019, the people said.”

It then highlights, “Trudeau has signalled he doesn’t support Northern Gateway on its current route through British Columbia, and any major new routing could force the company to restart its approval process, the people said. …Trudeau is also concerned about the electoral impact of Energy East, which is unpopular in Quebec, where the Liberals hold 40 of 78 electoral districts, the people said. …[But] the prime minister has spoken favorably about the Kinder Morgan pipeline in the past and his government is said to consider it a net-positive for its so-called ‘progressive’ political movement nationally.”

As recently as January 2014, Trudeau stated, “I am, however, very interested in the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline that is making its way through. I certainly hope that we’re going to be able to get that pipeline approved.”

In a Tyee article, Bill Tielman argues, “First – Trudeau has long been supportive of the Kinder Morgan plan, as evidenced by his quote when opposition leader in 2014. But now, with Alberta reeling from the dramatic drop in oil prices – and the damaging impact that’s had on Canada’s economy – the Liberals are under far more pressure to get that province’s oil sands bitumen to tidewater for sale to Asia. And as the Liberals contemplate a $29.4-billion budget deficit this coming year and a total of $118.6 billion over six years, any project that invests $6.8 billion, creates thousands of jobs, and helps get an important natural resource to markets at a better price can’t be rejected.”

Tielman adds, “Could the Liberals still reject Kinder Morgan and overturn the NEB [recommendation to approve it]? Technically yes, but practically no. …The Liberals will point to their ‘balanced’ approach on the environment compared to the Conservatives and spend some political capital on Kinder Morgan, betting that after the initial fury dies down, they will not pay a high price.”

And pushing Trudeau toward a ‘yes’ position, Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin comments, “The country needs jobs and the pipeline projects would bring on thousands of them. Mr. Trudeau has just returned from a trip to China, which will soon become the world’s largest importer of oil. Are we to deprive ourselves of a major stake in that market out of fear of oil spills from increased tanker traffic off our West Coast? …The Trudeau Liberals are early in their mandate. They are in the high 40s in the polls. That’s up from the high 20s a year ago. It’s arguably the steepest climb in Liberal history. The Conservatives are about 20 points behind. What better moment to do the tough stuff? They have political capital to burn.”

It’s also worrisome that the Liberals do not appear to be calculating the cumulative impact of the major carbon emitting projects now being considered. After a barrage of criticism today over the approval of the Petronas Pacific NorthWest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, federal Natural Resources minister Jim Carr stated, “Kinder Morgan will be decided on its own merits. There is no linkage between these projects.” But given the Petronas project could generate 14 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year and the Kinder Morgan project would produce an estimated 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period, these projects should be linked in terms of their cumulative impacts and Canada’s ability to do its part to keep global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The Council of Canadians has been opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline since August 2011 by participating in marches, protests and civil disobedience actions, supporting chapter activism, petitions and a court action, writing blogs, and organizing numerous public events and a six-community speaking tour.