Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, opposition says
Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday June 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson
OTTAWA -- Opposition parties and environmental groups are urging the federal government to stop expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline, citing a poll saying Canadians are alarmed by the project's cost.
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, NDP environment critic Laurel Collins, as well as the Greens' parliamentary leader Elizabeth May and environment activists Alexandra Woodsworth and Patrick Bonin, held a news conference Wednesday morning to release a Nanos poll of 1,003 Canadians that asked numerous questions about the project and its costs.
The federal government bought the existing oil pipeline between Alberta and the B.C. coast, and an unfinished plan to twin it, for $4.5 billion in 2018. The latest tally says the total cost to complete the twinning project will be $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate.
"If there is no profit to be made in the future, if we are going to have trouble finding buyers, we still have the opportunity to save these billions and invest in renewable energies, invest in these families struggling in Western Canada, rather than losing billions of dollars supporting a white elephant in the future," said Woodsworth, a campaigner for B.C.-based environmental group Dogwood.
The Liberals under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stepped in with public money when the company driving the project, Kinder Morgan, found the regulatory obstacles and legal challenges posed too much of a risk.
Some of those hurdles have since been cleared and the government says it intends to sell the completed pipeline at a profit once it's done, reinvesting the proceeds into fighting climate change. Trans Mountain Corp., the federally owned company handling the project, has spent $2.5 billion to manage the impacts of delays and the resulting additional regulatory process. An additional $8.4 billion in expected expenses remain to complete the project, as well as $1.7 billion in finance charges.
According to the Nanos poll, only 16 per cent of respondents agreed that the government should spend whatever it costs to complete the project. Forty-three per cent said it should cost Canadian taxpayers nothing; 21 per cent said taxpayers should fund the currently expected completion costs.
But also according to Nanos, just 17 per cent of respondents said the government should cancel the twinning and write off the sunk costs. Forty per cent said it should sell the pipeline for whatever it can get now; 33 per cent said the project should continue with public money.
And 47 per cent of respondents said Canada and the world need resource projects such as the pipeline to create jobs, versus 43 per cent who said such projects should be halted because of their effect on climate change. Ten per cent were unsure. That finding was consistent in every region of Canada except Quebec.
Nanos said the poll, conducted between Jan. 27 and 29, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
According to Bonin, of Greenpeace, "it is very clear that this project will have no buyer." He asked that the government stop the project.
"If the government insists on wanting to move forward, at least, that all the information be on the table so that Canadians and Quebecers understand that more than $12 billion must be currently put in and we're all going to pay out of our pockets," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2020.