Ottawa – “The objective of the project is not to increase our oil production, it is to broaden our options.”
That was part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s message when he announced on June 18 that the Trans Mountain Expansion project was given the go-ahead by the federal cabinet.
“Today, I am announcing our government has newly approved the Trans Mountain project, going forward. The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau said in the National Press Gallery in Ottawa on June 18.
“We’ve decided every dollar the federal government earns from this project will be invested in Canada’s clean energy transition. Additional corporate tax revenue alone could be over $500 million per year, once the project is up and running. We will invest this money, as well as any profits from the sale of the pipeline, in clean energy projects that will power our homes, business and communities for generations to come,” he said.
In laying out the reasoning behind the approval, Trudeau said, “You can’t have a real economic plan, a real jobs plan, in the 21st century, unless you have a climate change plan. We want good, middle class jobs, now, and good middle-class jobs for our kids. Do to that, we need to create wealth, today, so we can invest in the future.
“The policies of the last century will not serve Canadians in this one.”
He noted that the Trans Mountain Expansion project (TMX) was initially approved in 2016.
“We also believe TMX can solve a core economic challenge we currently face,” he said. “It’s really simple. Right now, we basically have only one customer for our energy resources, the United States. And as we’ve seen over the last few years, anything can happen with our neighbours to the south. Now, don’t get me wrong. Americans are strong friends, partners, and allies, but Canadians are our own people, and we make our own choices. But we can only make choices when we have choices. Right now, when it comes to our conventional energy, we do not. We have only one customer. Ninety-nine per cent of our conventional energy is sold to the United States, often at large discounts,” he said, adding that with a single customer, we are in a weaker position.
“Let’s be real here. Big projects don’t come up the way they used to. We can’t just decide to put in a railway one day, and then start putting down rails the next day. It doesn’t work that way anymore, and that’s a good thing,” Trudeau said, referring to lengthy approvals and consultations processes.
He said the Federal Court of Appeal said last August “We needed to do better. And you know what? They were right.”
The National Energy Board was directed to examine the impacts TMX could have on the marine environment and offer recommendations. Consultation teams were doubled in size, and consultations were overseen by a retired Supreme Court justice.
“At the end of the day, we listened, and we are acting on what we heard,” Trudeau said. This includes doing more to protect and restore salmon habitat in the Fraser River, efforts to protect the southern resident killer whale and its habitat, among other efforts.
The prime minister referred to a new phase of engagement with Indigenous groups on ways they can directly benefit from the project. “It could be an equity stake, revenue sharing, or something else altogether. We’re coming to the table with and open mind. And when it comes to potential Indigenous buy-in, we’re not putting a limit on it. Indigenous ownership in Trans Mountain Corporation could be 25 per cent, 50 per cent or even 100 per cent. These are conversations we’re excited to have.”
The project will create new jobs, open new markets, and new avenues for Indigenous economic prosperity, he said.
“Now I know some people are disappointed by this decision. I understand your disappointment, and I know that for some, your concerns are very tangible. For British Columbians that are worried about a spill, for example, know that we take your concerns very seriously,” he said, noting he used to live in Vancouver. “Our top priority is making sure there is no spill in the first place. We know we have to be prepared for anything.”
This included investment in spill response and the coast guard.
During the announcement, Trudeau took pains to contrast his record with the previous Conservative government, stating, “The Conservatives built exactly zero pipelines to new markets.”
This statement was despite the construction of the original Keystone pipeline which went into service in 2010, and the Enbridge Alberta Clipper project which was completed in 2009.
“It is in Canada’s national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow.
“Good, middle class jobs – this is who Canada will succeed, now and into the future,” he concluded in his initial statement to the National Press Gallery.
According to Trans Mountain, the project “is subject to 156 conditions that are enforced by the NEB and demonstrate the rigour and detail that will go into every stage of the expansion to mitigate risks, respect the rights of those directly affected and operate safely.”
The same day the cabinet approved the pipeline project, the House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution declaring a “climate emergency.”
“Part of our climate plan is having an absolute cap on oilsands emissions from Alberta,” Trudeau said, when asked about increased emissions
“We made the decision to purchase the pipeline based on de-risking the pipeline. There was
He said the government has no intention of being the long-term operator of the pipeline. They intend to sell it, and that meaningful indigenous participation would be part of that sale
Economic growth while protecting the environment was a frequent refrain from the prime minister.
“Our focus, from the very beginning, has been on growing the economy and protecting the environment,” he said when asked how he will keep votes in British Columbia.
With regards to legal challenges, he recognized there are people out there for whom no amount of changes or conditions will make the pipeline acceptable, but “People expect us to move forward with good jobs for the future, and to protect the environment for our kids.”
He noted that a pipeline is the safest way to transport resources, as opposed to by rail.
“Cabinet is solidly behind this decision,” Trudeau said.
Regarding Indigenous consultation, he said the government must respond to the consultations. Sohi said the consultations were meaningful and thoughtful. Sixteen recommendations will
“We are satisfied we have discharged our duty to consult,” Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi said.
Asked about Canada’s level of oil production, he referred again to the “absolute cap” on oilsands emissions, which will allow Canada to reach its Paris agreement targets. Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherin McKenna said it was extremely important this project fit within the national climate change plan, with the cap, and with the price on carbon, which she referred to as “the price on pollution.”
“I was also pleased all the money from this project will go to fund the clean transition,” McKenna said.
“We’ve been clear, we’re going to meet our target, and the whole world needs to do more,” she said.
Asked if one pipeline would be enough to deal with the “one buyer problem,” Trudeau deferred to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who then defected the question, saying if a proposal will come forward, it will be dealt with at that time.
Trudeau noted there were numerous outreaches from Indigenous groups and corporations interested in buying the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Collapsing the discount on our resources will improve the government’s finances, Morneau pointed out.
Regarding potential protests, Trudeau said consultations were important, as opposed to when railroads were built. “We know there are still going to be people who remain unconvinced. But I also know that the vast majority of Canadians understand we need to grow the economy and protect the environment at the same time.”
“We were perfectly prepared to say no, and not go forward if we had not met the expectations of the Court of Appeal,” Trudeau said, when asked if the decision to go ahead had essentially been pre-ordained, since the federal government had bought the pipeline and had to do something with it.
Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson
“Today’s announcement confirms the value of this project to Canada’s economic future. It is also a vote of confidence in the ability of a project of this magnitude to succeed. This is a major milestone, not only for us, but more importantly for the shippers, communities, workers, local businesses and Indigenous peoples who have been involved in the development of the project and are waiting to share in its success,” said Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Trans Mountain Corporation. “Today is the culmination of a lengthy and thorough review that considered the thousands of hours of environmental and technical studies, scientific evidence and meaningful engagement that were part of the comprehensive assessment.”
“We are ready to re-start the project. We thank the many Canadians who have been unwavering in their support, and we’re excited to deliver on our commitments and ensure as many people as possible will benefit from this important Canadian project,” says Anderson
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer
“The real question for Justin Trudeau today is when will the Trans Mountain Pipeline get built,” said federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Opposition.
“Let’s not forget the Trans Mountain expansion was supposed to be operating this year,” Scheer said.
He pointed out that three private companies had been willing to build pipelines in Canada – Kinder Morgan, Enbridge and TransCanada – prior to Justin Trudeau becoming prime minsister
“The only way to get a big project built in Canada is to have the federal government nationalize it,” Scheer said was the message to global investors.
He said the federal cabinet’s decisions doesn’t get us any further ahead than we were two-and-a-half years ago.
He accused Trudeau of wanting to get rid of the oil and gas sector in Canada. He also said that if Trudeau is re-elected this fall, that will be the end of this project, as he would find a way to stop it.
Scheer said his goal is for Canada to become energy independent, and displace foreign oil via an east-west national energy corridor.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh
Asked if the NDP were to win power in the fall, their leader said they would immediately end the project.
“To be clear, this is not a pipeline I think Canada should own,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said.
Rather, Canada should invest in renewable energy, he stressed.
“If we were government, we would not go ahead with this. We would oppose it,” he said, saying putting the coast at risk is not the right decision.
BC Premier John Horgan
British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who had previously promised to “use every tool in the toolbox,” to fight the project, tweeted, “We are disappointed that the federal government has re-approved a project that poses great risks to our coast, our environment and our economy.
“Our government has a responsibility to protect the interests of British Columbians and that’s what we’ve been doing. We will continue to defend our environment, our coast, and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on them.”
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said in an emailed statement, “Today’s announcement that the Trans Mountain Expansion has been approved by the federal government is good news for all Canadians. Not only is TMX crucial to our energy sector, market access and jobs, but after the federal government purchased the pipeline over one year ago, they put billions of taxpayers’ dollars on the line.
“This approval marks the second time the federal government has approved this project, after nearly six years since the expansion was proposed to the National Energy Board, and numerous rounds of reviews and consultations. The prime minister has stated that shovels would be in the ground this construction season. This is of the utmost importance to increase the capacity for Canadian energy products to reach markets as soon as possible.
“We must also ensure that the TMX pipeline is not the last pipeline project to receive approval in our nation. Under Bill C-69, Saskatchewan remains deeply concerned that no new pipeline or industrial projects will be proposed or built in the future. The federal government must heed the advice of premiers from across Canada, and scrap Bills C-69 and C-48 to ensure the economic prosperity of our nation.”
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney
This is a test for Canada, said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. He noted, “We are massively subsidizing the U.S. economy.”
“We never should have been so dependent on this one coastal pipeline project,” Kenney said, noting the federal government’s killing of Northern Gateway and Energy East, and the delays from the U.S. on Keystone XL.
Kenney called for a national energy corridor across the country, as well as the killing of Bills C-48 and C-69.
“Today’s announcement is not construction and its not completion. Let’s get the public built,” Kenney said.
Kenney doesn’t expect the pipeline to be completed before 2022.