More than two-thirds of Canadians are unwilling to help cover the spiralling cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, a new survey concludes.
“The critical question is: who will pay the massive debt incurred by Trans Mountain in building the pipeline?” said Eugene Kung of West Coast Environmental Law, which commissioned the poll. “Finance Minister Freeland has a choice between taxpayers and oil companies, and Canadians have made their position clear: oil companies should pay for their own infrastructure.”
The Trans Mountain (TMX) project runs from Edmonton, Alberta, to the Westridge Marine Terminal and Chevron refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia. Ottawa bought the project in 2018 for C$4.5 billion after Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. threatened to shut down construction, and Crown-owned Trans Mountain Corporation has since taken out $16 billion in government-backed loans. As of this summer, the estimated completion cost for the pipeline had ballooned from $7.4 to nearly $31 billion, prompting critics to predict a “taxpayer-funded loss” approaching $25 billion.
In a recent survey conducted by Nanos Research, 68% of Canadians either opposed or somewhat opposed the government writing off $15 to $20 billion of Trans Mountain Corporation’s debt that is owed back to Canadians. But the write-off seems more likely after Trans Mountain filed an application with the Canadian Energy Regulator to approve its proposed shipping tolls, which will cover less than half of the project’s $30.9-billion price tag.
Sixty percent of respondents want mostly oil companies to pay for TMX, while 3% said it should mostly be government/taxpayers and 32% said it should be a mix of both.
In the same survey, only 18% of Canadians said the government was heading in the right direction with the pipeline.
With Canada gearing up for an election before autumn 2025, finalizing the cost to taxpayers could be politically treacherous for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party. Voters are especially likely to be disgruntled by the potential write-off as many struggle with inflation and high costs for housing and groceries, Reuters reports.
The federal government has spent massive political and financial capital on the pipeline, but “Canadians do not support billions of dollars in additional subsidies to oil and gas companies,” Kung said. “These are the same companies that continue to report massive profits while the average Canadian struggles with the cost of living.”