The Trans Mountain Pipeline – A Boost in Revenue or a Cataclysmic Risk to Canadians?

Prarthana Pathak, Queen’s University


On November 29th, 2016, The Government of Canada spent billions of dollars granting approval for an oil pipeline expansion. Despite this, however, will ongoing protests from all across the country interfere with Trudeau’s plans? 

Kinder Morgan, a company headquartered in Houston Texas, is the fourth largest energy company in North America. The existing Kinder Morgan pipeline runs 1150 km, and transports crude and diluted oil from Edmonton, Alberta to the Westbridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia. The pipeline began its operation in 1952 and was known as the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Kinder Morgan is currently proposing to double the length Trans Mountain pipeline with an additional pipe that will span 994 km. The pipeline expansion is expected to increase the total volume of oil transported from Edmonton to BC from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels/day. As a result of increasing Canada’s capacity to make more resources available on the market, there is a projected $73.5 billion increase in revenue over the next 20 years. Alberta fully supports the pipeline expansion, as it offers large-scale employment opportunities. Alberta’s share in direct and indirect job growth per year is 441,000 persons employed/year. This includes employing 15,000 people during project development and 13,000 from project operations. Despite British Columbia’s share of the benefits, however, BC is not fully in support of the pipeline expansion.

According to Canada’s National Observer, there are several projected risks from the new pipeline expansion that citizens across the country are worried about. There will be increased risk of pipeline ruptures, which citizens of Burnaby are particularly worried about. In July 2007, there was a massive pipeline rupture that spilled over 250,000 liters of oil into the neighborhoods of Burnaby. This incident is still very fresh in the memories of the Burnaby’s residents, including the Mayor Derek Corrigan who is very strongly opposed to the pipeline. An additional concern is the increase in oil tanker traffic, as it currently takes two oil tankers a week to ship from Westbridge Marine Terminal to foreign markets, and the expansion would increase the traffic through the city of Vancouver’s waterfront to up to ten tankers a week.

The biggest concern is for environmental groups, settler locals, and First Nations groups that highly rely on BC’s west coast waters. The increased oil tanker traffic leads to higher risk of oil spills, a concern that has prompted strong opposition towards the expansion of Alberta’s oil sands. The expansion will have major negative impacts on First Nations communities that rely on natural resources which could be threatened by oil spills. According to the National Observer, the Alberta oil sands are also the “fastest growing source of greenhouse emissions,” so there are concerns that the pipeline expansion will contribute to increases in greenhouse gas emission as well.

Over 200 people were arrested in the past year for blockading the construction site of the tank terminal at the Pacific end. As BBC News reports, “the site is central to [the] fight over climate change and Canada’s economy, the environment, and the oil sector”. Green Party leader Elizabeth May and the Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart were also arrested during the protests. They told BBC News reporters that, “We didn’t say ‘Come here and arrest us, We came here and said, ‘Stop this work’. We came here and said we don’t want our land decimated, we don’t want our waters decimated.” Major influencers such as renowned environmental activist David Suzuki have been in attendance at the ongoing protests in Vancouver, BC. The RCMP continue to arrest people and remove them from the blockade as many citizens violate the conditions of an interim court injunction. The interim injunction was issued by the B.C. Supreme Court in mid-December 2018, and orders those who interfere with the project to be removed and charged with obstruction.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline company has received consent from approximately 26 of the 133 First Nations and ingenious groups in both B.C. and Alberta. The majority of the First Nations communities are against the pipeline and are concerned about its expansion affecting the First Nations’ economy, their motives, and their beliefs/concerns regarding bitumen. Protestors across Canada are in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation communities who are actively trying to prevent the pipeline company from accessing their territory. Canadians have been gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in protest. Some members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation were arrested along with other protestors early this January. Similarly, in Vancouver, hundreds of people gathered outside the B.C. Supreme Court in January and began marching down Victory Square. Many people were there in support of the First Nations trying to protect their territory. Many Canadians are outraged at the ongoing disregard and disrespect towards the First Nations communities and their territories. 

With all this said, the question still remains: Will the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion boost revenue or will the risks be cataclysmic to Canadians? Canadian’s are torn between the debate about whether  the pipeline will fuel the economy or devastate the Pacific coastline. Despite the huge economic benefit the expansion promises, the general population is opposed to it, as there are environmental risks that cannot be reversed if something goes wrong. This pipeline could either make or break Canada. Will Trudeau overturn the project, or will he move forward, and face extreme backlash from communities all across the country?


Sources

Hopper, Tristan. “What do First Nations Really Think About Trans Mountain?The National Post. April 20 2018.

Judd, Amy. “RCMP arrest 14 at anti-pipeline protest in northern B.C.Global News. January 9 2019.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline.Canada’s National Observer.

Murphy, Jessica. “Trans Mountain: The billion-dollar oil pipeline Canadians own and can’t build.BBC News. November 26 2018.

Protesters across Canada support Wet’suwet’en anti-pipeline camps.” CBC News. January 8t 2019.

Project Benefits.Trans Mountain.