The newly elected New Democratic government in Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, is prepared to go to court with the federal government. The BC government announced Thursday that it would resort to any legal means available in order to halt the progress of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would allow Canada greater access to Asian markets, in turn resulting in higher prices for oil, one of Canada’s most valued commodities.
Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval of the pipeline late last year, his decision is at odds with his general view on environmentalism and of oil as a greater detriment to Canada’s environment than it is a benefit to its citizens. Trudeau’s constituents tend to fall far-left of center, and they were left upset with the PM’s decisions to approve the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline, and the Keystone XL pipeline. However, Trudeau is a strong proponent of green energy, and has proven willing to enact policies in the name of renewable energy, even as it causes Canadian energy prices to skyrocket.
It remains to be seen whether Canada’s Parliament will support or overturn the British Columbian government’s decision to halt the pipeline’s expansion on government-owned lands. As recently as June, a spokesperson for Trudeau maintained that the PM supports the expansion. The legal battle will continue to play out in Ottawa.
However, it is clear from this decision that British Columbia’s New Democratic Party, which aligned with the environmentally-oriented and far-left Green Party in making this decision, is dedicated to taking the fight as far as it can, regardless of the resources and time such a legal battle will consume. And, the decision made by the BC government– a province considered to be the California of Canada in terms of prevailing ideology– is going to primarily impact neighboring Alberta’s considerable number of blue-collar, oil-dependent workers, and not for the better.
Advocates for pipeline expansion have a simple motive: new construction projects require more workers, in turn resulting in more jobs and resulting benefits for Alberta’s struggling economy. But BC’s government simply does not agree with this.
In December of 2016, the government suggested that it would attempt to negotiate some form of revenue sharing, which would necessitate Kinder Morgan’s additional profits resulting from the expansion being allocated to Canada, and purportedly its citizens. Such a suggestion implies that the government does not believe its people would benefit, in the form of jobs and wages, from the expansion itself. Or, perhaps the government wanted to get its paws directly on the money itself. Surely, some might “disappear” in the process of doling Kinder Morgan’s profits out to its citizens.
Upon its announcement that it would contest and temporarily halt the Trans Mountain pipeline’s expansion, a spokesman for the BC government stated that, despite increased activity on Canada’s Pacific Coast, the provinces would not benefit economically from the expansion:
‘A potentially steep increase in heavy-oil tanker traffic off Vancouver’s harbor “is not in British Columbia’s interests,” said George Heyman, the province’s environment minister. “Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future.”’
The comment itself is worth analyzing. It cannot be ignored that, by stating that British Columbia, and presumably neighboring Alberta, already has “thousands” of oil jobs, Heyman makes a subtle implication that those thousands of jobs are enough jobs. Energy, oil in particular, is the “backbone” of Alberta’s economy, and suppressed oil prices are in part to blame for Alberta’s sluggish employment statistics, which will likely get worse before improving. This illustrates the necessity for the approval of the Trans Mountain expansion.
The primary aim of the expansion is to transport the contents of Canada’s significant oil and gas reserves, currently landlocked in the nation’s interior, to the coasts. This would allow for a more appealing option for Asian markets to purchase. Heyman admits that such a market is a viable one, as he alluded to the potential “increase in heavy-oil tanker traffic” resulting from the expansion’s completion.
Environmental concerns are inherent risks in the construction of any pipeline. But Canada is a nation whose economy, and whose people, rely heavily upon the export of its natural resources. In no province is this truer than Alberta, where residents have come to increasingly resent the liberal policies of federal and provincial governments, as much as a good-natured Canadian can feel resentful. And now the neighboring province through which the pipeline must run is telling them that the Trans Mountain pipeline would not help the provincial economy.
The expansion will cost Kinder Morgan $5.8 billion dollars. Part of that cost estimation comes from Canadian labor and, according to popular models for pipeline-cost estimation, the price of many Canadian-bought pipeline construction materials. In the New Democratic Party’s estimation, none of that $5.8 billion would end up benefitting Albertans, British Columbians, or their respective economies. At this point, Albertans must be waiting to be pissed on and told by Mr. Heyman that it is nothing more than the latest storm shower.
In lieu of an approval of the jobs-creating pipeline, the provincial government cites the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as reason not to expand the pipeline, which already spans 714 miles of Canadian land. Why would the government not trust the company that was already granted use of 714 miles of Canadian land to be allowed to continue operations further? Why allow Kinder Morgan to operate in BC at all if the government believed that they were likely to repeat the human error that resulted in the Deepwater spill?
The likely truth is that, in the BC government’s minds, preventing the creation of more oil jobs is somehow less egregious than eliminating existing ones. The reality is that they are, for all intents and purposes, one in the same. Alberta needs jobs, and it needs oil jobs specifically. Its citizens, if they are employed, have seen stagnant wages for too long, and the potential of a partnership with Asian oil-buying partners would signal the potential for higher oil prices than what Canada currently gets from discounted deals with America.
Albertans must now hope that Parliament, and in some respects Justin Trudeau, takes the necessary steps to reverse this decision by the British Columbian government, who has already defied the Liberal Prime Minister’s approval of the expansion.