Trans Mountain Pipeline: Support Becomes Opposition If Costs Rise

A new Nanos poll shows that even in British Columbia, most Canadians now accept the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion – providing the cost does not rise too high. While 43% want to stop the oil and gas sectors expansion to reduce emissions; 47% believe we need the jobs. (These numbers are now 41.8% and 48.1%, respectively, in BC.) However this support becomes opposition when respondents were asked if the government should borrow money to complete the project.

Trans Mountains Cost Announcement

Support becomes opposition if costs rise
Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project Configuration Map – taken from NEB Website

This poll was taken in response to Trans Mountain’s announcement that:

“To date, Trans Mountain has spent $2.5 billion on the Expansion Project and it is anticipated that an additional $8.4 billion will be spent to complete the Project, plus $1.7 billion of financial carrying costs for a total cost estimate of $12.6 billion. The in-service date is expected to be December 2022.”

Canada purchased the project’s existing assets for $4.4 billion, in 2018, and the government approved $9.3 billion in additional expenditures last year. Now it looks like at least $3.3 billion more will be needed.

A Wise Use Of Public Money?

“A majority of Canadians support the Trans Mountain project, in principle,” said pollster Nik Nanos. “They want to see the jobs and economic benefits promised by the pipeline. But past a certain price point, people start to question if this is a wise use of public money.”

Faced with the prospect of rising costs:

  • 40% of the recipients said “Sell the project to a private company at the best price it can get” ;
  • Another 17% said “Cancel the project and write off any losses”;
  • Only 33% thought Canada should “Build the pipeline with public money.”

“Trans Mountain’s new price tag could cause political headaches as the government tries to press ahead with this controversial project. The more money we have to borrow to build this pipeline, the more uncomfortable Canadians are with the whole idea,” said Alexandra Woodsworth, campaigns manager with the Dogwood Initiative.

(Dogwood commissioned Nanos Research, which contacted 1,003 adult Canadians  between January 27th and 29th, 2020.)

Kinder Morgan walked away because it saw its future profit margins getting eaten up by soaring costs,” said Eugene Kung, from West Coast Environmental Law Association. “The government’s own advisors in the Parliamentary Budget Office have confirmed that delays and rising costs like those Trans Mountain is now facing make the project uneconomical to build …”

2900 People Working On the Project

“Today, we have more than 2,900 people working on the Project and that number will grow significantly in the months ahead. With 65 per cent of the detailed route approved, and a process established by the Canada Energy Regulator for the remainder in progress, the path forward is clear. Construction is accelerating and we’re very excited to be delivering this important Project and on our commitments to Canadians, our customers and communities,” says Ian Anderson, President and CEO of Trans Mountain Corporation, in a press release.

Three hundred of the company’s employees are “Indigenous hires.”

Trans Mountain expects to employ 5,500 people “at peak construction period in mid to late 2021”. 

First Nations Appeal Dismissed

Protect the Inlet by Land and Sea on July 14th, 2018 in Vancouver, – Photo ©Líam Olsen/Greenpeace released into Public Domain

On Feb 3, 2020, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a legal challenge by the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Coldwater Indian Band and a group of seven Stó:lō villages:

“The applicants’ submissions are essentially that the Project cannot be approved until all of their concerns are resolved to their satisfaction. If we accepted those submissions, as a practical matter there would be no end to consultation, the Project would never be approved, and the applicants would have a de facto veto right over it.”

In response to the decision, Paul de Jong, president of the  Progressive Contractors Association of Canada, said, “We’re delighted. As a group of contractors, we’ve been standing in line to employ thousands of Canadians to work on the pipeline. We understand the regulatory process takes time and requires consultation. This latest case being dismissed is a key step forward. Workers can work and investors can look at Canada and have one more indication that Canada is open for business.”

“There is a lot in the Federal Court of Appeal decision that concerns us. The TMX Project continues to be a threat to our coastline and community in the case of a pipeline leak or tanker spill. This project will harm our communities, our people, and the jobs our people rely on in the Vancouver area,” said Khelsilem Tl’aḵwasik̓a̱n, Squamish Nation Councillor.

The First Nations groups have the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

Photo at top of page: One of the many freighters entering Burrard Inlet by Mat Hampson via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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