Nothing Divides Like A Pipeline (Part 1)

Nothing Divides Like A Pipeline (Part 1)

This blog post is the first half of a two-part series about the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.


Without a doubt, most of my Canadian readers (and especially those from Western Canada) will know about this highly contentious and polarizing dispute: The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.  This hot-button issue has pitted provinces against each other for the past few months, and forced the residents of British Columbia and Alberta to take sides.

For the last little while, I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a post about Kinder Morgan without alienating those who don’t share my perspectives or concerns.  The expansion has been unique in that it has divided not only a country, but individual interest groups that would normally share the same viewpoint have been divided as well.  For example, members of some First Nations groups such as the Tsleil-Waututh Nation have been some of the pipeline’s most resolute opposers, while other Indigenous groups have been in favour of the expansion.  Similarly, many who consider themselves environmentalists in other respects have decided to support the pipeline.

In light of all this, I have finally come to a decision on how to write this post: I won’t be sharing my opinion on the issue, but instead, I will write an overview of the pipeline expansion and some major points for and against.  That way, those of you who may not be familiar with the issue can have a chance to form your own opinions.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What Is The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project?

Kinder Morgan is an energy infrastructure company, and they commissioned the current Trans Mountain Pipeline system back in 1951.  However, the problems all began in December of 2013, when Kinder Morgan applied to build a new pipeline, which would transport bitumen (which is heavier and denser than regular crude oil) between Edmonton, Alberta, and Burnaby, B.C.  

The proposal was approved by the Government of Canada in November 2016, but the province of British Columbia refused to support the Trans Mountain pipeline.  Since then, the government of Alberta has fired back at B.C., even threatening to cut off oil exports to British Columbia.  The federal government has since sided with Alberta and shown its support of Kinder Morgan, with our Prime Minister saying, “We are going to get the pipeline built.”  

And they certainly kept their promise.  On May 29, 2018, the federal government made a bold move to ensure that the expansion is built – they purchased the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion!  According to CBC News, the government (and therefore taxpayers) may end up spending billions of additional dollars in construction.

Image obtained from kindermorgan.com

Why Are British Columbia and Alberta Divided Over The Issue?

Firstly, we have to consider the economic significance of this project.  One of the most significant parts of Alberta’s economy is the oil and gas sector, and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would bring an additional $73.5 billion to Alberta’s oil producers (according to the Trans Mountain Website).

On the other hand, for British Columbia (whose economy depends primarily on our forestry and fishing industries), there seems to be more potential harms than benefits.  More oil, and particularly bitumen, flowing to our coastline means more potential for an oil spill.

In February of 2018, Alberta began to retaliate against B.C’s strong opposition to the pipeline.  Alberta’s premier, Rachel Notley, challenged the province’s stance by threatening to suspend electricity purchase contracts from British Columbia.  The next week, Notley announced that Alberta would stop importing B.C. wine, a boycott that lasted for over two weeks. The brewing trade war reached a truce at the end of February, but fast forward to April, and Alberta made its biggest threat yet.  The Alberta provincial government stated that they will cut off oil exports to British Columbia as a punishment for their stubbornness.


In the second half of this post, I will explain the points for and against the expansion.  Stay tuned!

-Asha M.

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