First Nations lost a round in court against the Trans Mountain pipeline, Ottawa hired a former pipeline executive to manage its buyout deal with Kinder Morgan, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was willing to give up a few Parliamentary seats in B.C. to get the project built, while analysis from multiple sources hammered away at any notion of a credible plan for what is now ballooning into a C$15- to $20-billion project.
In Ottawa, the Federal Court of Appeal rejected a call by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to reopen the evidence in its appeal of the pipeline’s approval, after an investigative series by National Observer unveiled new evidence that the approval process was rigged. After viewing redacted versions of documents that the community’s lawyers wanted them to consider in their unredacted state, the judges said the files wouldn’t have changed their pending decision, adding that they shed “no light on whether Canada fulfilled its duty to consult with Tsleil-Waututh or any other Indigenous group”.
The Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDIC) hired John Carruthers, former head of the Northern Gateway project, to manage the Trudeau government’s buyout deal and ensure the project is completed. “The government is engaging the assistance of expert advisors in financial, legal, and technical matters, and working with investors to transfer the project and related assets to a new owner or owners, in a way that ensures the project’s construction and operations will proceed in a manner that protects the public interest,” said Finance Canada spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet.
Carruthers, an executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s fossil-affiliated School of Public Policy, worked on Northern Gateway for more than a decade, the Globe states.
Trudeau, meanwhile, told Global TV that doing what he said was the “right thing” on the pipeline mattered more to him than his own electoral prospects in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, which sent 18 Liberal MPs to Ottawa in 2015. “When one is serving one’s country and when you’re trying to do the right thing for future generations,” he said, “building a protected environment and growing a strong economy at the same time is something that’s more important than winning a few extra seats here or there.”
But continuing analysis of the pipeline deal showed that Trudeau’s decision on what’s now known as the Taxpayer Mountain pipeline may be imperiling more than his majority government. The Tyee’s Mitchell Anderson is out with a detailed analysis of all the factors that are driving down demand for the product the pipeline would carry. The Georgia Straight reports that the assets Canada is now acquiring from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion were valued at $2.7 billion (US$2.08 billion) when the company last assessed them in 2017. And economist Robyn Allan says Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s own 2018-21 fiscal plan undercuts her claim that the pipeline is worth about $15 billion per year to the province—showing that Trans Mountain will deliver no financial benefit at all.
“The Budget explains that the reason why Trans Mountain’s expansion will deliver no economic benefit to Alberta, or the rest of Canada, is because any potential pricing gain from increased pipeline capacity will be swamped by significant heavy oil pricing problems that are looming on the horizon,” she writes.
The pipeline is also facing pushback from Washington State, where Governor Jay Inslee is calling the project a “major step backward” and environmentalists, Indigenous groups, at least one county official, and at least one editorial board are lining up against the project. “By purchasing this pipeline, Canada is aligning itself with a giant fossil fuel project that would take us backward in profoundly damaging ways,” Inslee said. “I have expressed my concerns about this project repeatedly, and I believe this is the wrong direction for our region.”
“Eight million residents who call the Salish Sea home are dependent on a robust, healthy environment that people come here to enjoy,” agreed Stephanie Buffam of Friends of the San Juans. “A catastrophic event, or even a small event, disrupts that movement of people visiting the area, as well as disrupts the US$30 billion in shipping that depends on uninterrupted clean water.”
One prompt for the pushback: a pro-pipeline op ed last Tuesday by Canada’s Seattle consul general, Brandon Lee. “Washingtonians have no greater ally in the protection of our sea, land, and air than Canada,” he wrote. “Canadians have never accepted the false choice between jobs or the environment: vibrant, progressive societies need both. I know Washingtonians think the same.”
In response, state leaders should “use any leverage they have to make Canada rethink the Trans Mountain project, or at a minimum, enact the strictest possible safeguards,” the Lewiston Tribune editorialized Friday. “Maybe Inslee should remind Trudeau of his soaring environmental rhetoric” during an amicable visit to Washington State in 2017.
“Today, it feels like hot air.”
Trudeau did pick up some words of support from charitable foundation executives Bruce Lourie and Peter Kendall, who published a plea for a middle ground in the fight over pipelines and climate change.
“Expanding the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline is a compromise Canada needs if we are to build national consensus to support a low-carbon economy,” they wrote for National Newswatch. “In the same way that environmentalists see the pipeline as an iconic representation of the evils of oil, business professionals see the lack of a pipeline as an iconic representation of government mismanagement of infrastructure and investment, and Albertans see the opposition to pipelines as a disregard for their economic and cultural well-being.”
In that light, they contended, “the current climate for this conversation in Canada, makes us seem more like our neighbours to the south, where environmental activists battle it out with climate change deniers and, in the end, little is accomplished. More polarization equals less progress of any kind.”