The federal government is likely preparing to approve the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion at the end of the year, British Columbia political commentator and The Tyee columnist Bill Tieleman wrote on iPolitics earlier this week, in spite of the storm of criticism and protest such a decision would certainly produce.
“Could the Liberals still reject Kinder Morgan and overturn the NEB decision? Technically, yes. Practically, no,” Tieleman writes. “The federal Liberals can’t afford to dither either—because the oil industry, and the ability to export one of Canada’s most important products, are too important to the national economy to ignore.”
Trans Mountain has faced sustained criticism from B.C. First Nations, municipalities, and environmentalists—most recently at public hearings convened by a three-member panel appointed by the federal government to check the National Energy Board’s work, after the NEB approved the project with 157 conditions.
But Tieleman says a “dispassionate look” at the project, which would triple the capacity of an existing pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day and increase the number of outbound tankers from five to 34 per month, would show that “the reasons are many, the rationale clear. The only question is how well the federal Liberal government will communicate its decision—and weather the storm of protest that is sure to follow.”
Apart from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s own support for the project, dating back to 2014, Tieleman cites several factors in its favour, including the impact of low oil prices on Alberta’s economy and the value of a $6.8-billion infrastructure project in tackling the federal government’s own $29.4-billion deficit.
With political forces lining up behind the pipeline, Tieleman concludes that its opponents are unlikely to reverse a decision to proceed. “The next election is not until 2019 and is likely to be fought over other issues,” he writes, “even in Metro Vancouver.”