Will the Trans Mountain Pipeline actually bring economic gain to Canada – We want to know!

Coast Salish canoe racers paddling in front of Trans Mountain Pipeline
Oil Storage Tanks on the waters of Burrard Inlet

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation remains concerned that the economic case for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) has not been fully evaluated — Canada has not updated their economic rationale for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion since 2013. As we all know, the economic landscape has changed considerably since then. Our concerns have been extensively documented and provided to the National Energy Board (NEB) and the federal government over the years. Recently, a report from David Hughes at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives affirmed our concerns that the TMX Project is not needed and will in fact operate at a net loss. Yet Canada continues to claim that the economic case for the Trans Mountain pipeline puts the Project in the public interest of Canada and justifies the harms to the Southern Resident Killer Whales, to the environment, and infringements of Indigenous rights, title, and interests.

The Canada Development Investment Corporation (CDEV), the federal entity that owns the Trans Mountain Pipeline Corporation, is holding their Annual Public Meeting this Tuesday, November 17th, 2020. CDEV has offered that people can submit questions to Trans Mountain in advance and every attempt will be made to answer the questions during the pre-recorded meeting. Tsleil-Waututh Nation has a few questions.

Canada has used the economic argument as a justification for re-approving a pipeline that they acknowledge would pose significant adverse impacts. The NEB states that the Trans Mountain project “is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. Specifically, Project-related marine shipping is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects on the Southern resident killer whale, and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale”(NEB Reconsideration Report 2019). These adverse effects infringe upon Tsleil-Waututh’s Indigenous rights and jeopardize the work Tsleil-Waututh has done for decades restoring the health of our ancestral waters, Burrard Inlet. Tsleil-Waututh’s expert reports, however, have always painted a very troubling scene and demonstrate quite the opposite. Specifically, our reports, produced in 2016 and 2019 found that TMX would cost Canadians billions of dollars, even in a variety of projected scenarios.  Yet Canada continues to claim that the economic case for the Trans Mountain pipeline puts the Project in the public interest of Canada.

Oil market changes, construction delays, labour and materials cost increases, the effects of Covid-19, and rising expectations to address climate change have all contributed to changing the economic outlook for the project. From a high of $90.00 USD per barrel in 2013, Alberta crude oil is currently valued at $28.43 USD. Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson announced this winter that the cost of the pipeline expansion has soared from an initial estimate of $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion. The $4.5 billion purchase price brings the cost up to close to $17 billion dollars for Canadians.  Further, this October, CBC published an opinion piece by Dr. Thomas Gunton that analyzes demand forecasts for oil alongside existing and planned pipeline capacity. Dr. Gunton’s argument is that oil production and demand is dropping and that other planned pipelines have more than enough room for Alberta’s oil. In other words, the Trans Mountain pipeline is redundant. This affects the economic case. The report from David Hughes just adds to the evidence that the benefits of the TMX Project will not outweigh the costs. Every Canadian should be asking Canada to reassess and reconsider the economic viability of this project before we go any further with construction.

Tsleil-Waututh has submitted questions to CDEV to seek transparency on the economics behind this Project. We’ve requested an updated cost estimate and an updated cost-benefit analysis based on the current economic conditions including oil markets and forecasts and the impacts from COVID-19. We are looking forward to hearing the response from Trans Mountain at the CDEV meeting. You can also tune in to the meeting on November 17, here: https://www.cdev.gc.ca/notice-of-annual-public-meeting-2/


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