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NDP MP Hits, Singh Misses on Call for Trans Mountain Shutdown

This story has been updated to better reflect the location of MP Peter Julian’s riding

As the federally-owned Trans Mountain works to reopen its pipeline to British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, an NDP Member of Parliament is planning a private member’s bill calling for the controversial expansion of the pipeline to be cancelled immediately on climate and climate justice grounds. But he doesn’t have the endorsement of party leader and Burnaby South MP Jagmeet Singh.

NDP House Leader and veteran MP Peter Julian, whose riding sits all too close to the pipeline’s current terminals on Burrard Inlet and will bear much of the brunt of the expansion project, has given notice to the House of Commons “that he intends to table a motion that calls on the government to ‘immediately stop’ construction of the Trans Mountain expansion,” reports the Toronto Star.

The motion casts shade on the idea that future demand for oil will justify increasing the capacity of the existing pipeline and terminals, adding that the project “undermines” Canada’s climate commitments. Instead, it proposes reinvesting the estimated $12.7 billion it will cost to complete the Trans Mountain expansion in a Green New Deal for Canada.

In an interview with the Star, Julian stressed that the motion is intended to express both his personal views and those of many of his constituents, and that he still supports his party’s more restrained messaging on the project—opposing it on principle, while not agitating for its cancellation.

Once vocal in his opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion project, NDP leader Singh has taken a more muted line on the subject as he attempts to deliver on a party position which “seeks to champion workers in all sectors of the economy while also pushing for stronger action on climate change,” writes the Star.

It has been a delicate dance for Singh, the paper adds, noting that his initial, full-throated opposition to the expansion project “soured relations” with his provincial counterpart Rachel Notley when she was seeking re-election as Alberta premier in 2019.

Clarifying his position on the project during this year’s federal election, Singh said that while he remains personally opposed to expanding the pipeline, a federal NDP government would not scrap it without thorough analysis. Responding to news of Julian’s motion, Singh said his position will not change.

As Julian moves to table his motion, Trans Mountain crews are working to reopen the existing pipeline after it was closed as a precautionary measure on November 14, in the wake of the atmospheric river that delivered unprecedented flooding to the Lower Mainland.

The Narwhal writes that floodwaters from the Coldwater River in central B.C. have left sections of the pipeline either exposed or underwater. While the unsettling situation has not triggered any oil leaks yet, it has “raised questions about the ability of the project to withstand extreme weather events.” 

Examining photos of the exposed pipeline, Don Deaver, a Texas-based engineer who consults on pipeline operations and maintenance, told The Narwhal that pipelines need to remain buried, for stability and to protect them from falling rocks and trees.

After a brief overview of Trans Mountain’s less-than-stellar care for the ecosystems through which its pipeline infrastructure passes, The Narwhal says the company declined to comment on “whether it would consider route changes or changes to its current plans for the expansion of the pipeline, in light of the impacts from the floods.”

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "NDP MP Hits, Singh Misses on Call for Trans Mountain Shutdown"

#1 Comment By David Huntley (Professor Emeritus, physics, SFU) On December 1, 2021 @ 12:11 AM

The Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet is not in Peter Julian’s electoral district as stated. It is in the Burnaby North-Seymour electoral district.

Trans Mountain claims the new pipeline will be in service in December 2022. I see no prospect of that happening. The tunnel through Mount Burnaby is scheduled to be finished in June 2022, then the three pipes have to installed for which nine months is anticipated; then there is cathodic protection, which is not trivial, and backfilling the tunnel. Everything is taking longer than planned, and if I had to bet, I would place the in service date in 2024.
Read the West Coast Environmental Law review of the topic to get a different analysis, but similar conclusion.

The government appears to be determined to complete the new pipeline despite all arguments about its likely future use and costs. We need a contest to imagine future uses for it. How about sending the excess rainwater from the coast to the prairie provinces which will no longer have Saskatchewan River water when all the glaciers in the Rocky Mountains have disappeared. Storage will be needed.

#2 Comment By Mitchell Beer On December 1, 2021 @ 1:07 AM

Thanks for the correction on Julian’s riding, David. I’m updating the story…right now.

I love your contest idea! We must have rewards for our contestants. First prize: One free subscription to The Energy Mix. Second prize: Two free subscriptions!