Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Latest news

  • The Trans Mountain expansion will cost $12.6-billion, up from an original estimate of $7.4-billion, because of a “domino effect” of delays, the Crown corporation that owns the pipeline system said Friday.
  • Days earlier, the project cleared an important legal hurdle when the Federal Court of Appeal ruled against four B.C. Indigenous groups who challenged it, arguing that First Nations weren’t properly consulted by the Trudeau government. Read the full text of the ruling here.
  • Ottawa has owned the pipeline system since buying it in the summer of 2018 from U.S. oil giant Kinder Morgan. It has so far been approved twice by the National Energy Board, once in 2016 and again last year after a court ruling quashed the first approval because judges said Indigenous people weren’t consulted enough.

Feb. 8, 2018: A boat pulls a boom at the Kinder Morgan Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, B.C., at the terminus for the Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

What is Trans Mountain?

Pipeline basics: The Trans Mountain pipeline system has carried Alberta’s oil to the B.C. coast since 1953, and can currently carry about 300,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipeline was owned by the Texas-based company Kinder Morgan, which tried throughout the 2010s to build a new pipeline along the existing one, boosting its capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. The expansion project would thread about 1,000 kilometres of new pipe from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. Originally, that was estimated to cost $7.4-billion, but the Crown corporation running the pipeline (more on that later) revised that up to $12.6-billion, citing the regulatory obstacles that have postponed construction.

Legend

National parks

Existing pipeline

Parks

Expansion pipeline

Terminal

Indigenous lands

Pump station

Edmonton

0

80

KM

Jasper

National

Park

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

ALBERTA

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Van.

Sumas

Burnaby

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA;

OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

0

80

KM

Existing pipeline

ALBERTA

Expansion pipeline

Edmonton

Indigenous lands

National parks

Parks

Jasper

National

Park

Terminal

Pump station

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Vancouver

Sumas

Burnaby

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Ferndale

Pacific

Ocean

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU;

NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC

NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

Edmonton

Existing pipeline

Expansion pipeline

16

ALBERTA

Indigenous lands

Jasper

National

Park

National parks

Parks

2

Terminal

Pump station

97

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

1

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Vancouver

Island

Kelowna

Westridge

Sumas

Vancouver

Burnaby

Pacific

Ocean

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

0

80

Anacortes

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Wasn’t it approved a while ago? The federal government gave Kinder Morgan the go-ahead for its pipeline expansion in 2016, while at the same time scuttling another planned Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway. Then, amid opposition to the project from First Nations and environmental groups, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed that approval in August of 2018, saying Ottawa would need to do more consultations with Indigenous people. Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi also ordered a new National Energy Board review of the application. In its final report in February of 2019, it approved the pipeline again, saying there would be “considerable benefits” to Canada, while also acknowledging increased risk to southern resident killer whales and a likely increase in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Why isn’t Kinder Morgan building it? Hoping to force the province’s hand, Kinder Morgan announced on April 8, 2018, that it would suspend all “non-essential” spending on the project unless it could reach an agreement with the B.C. government within weeks. A few weeks later, two days before Kinder Morgan’s deadline, Mr. Morneau announced that Ottawa would buy the project and bring it to completion under a Crown corporation. Mr. Morneau, Mr. Trudeau and others in the government have said they don’t plan on being the project’s long-term owners, and Ottawa will look for new investors to eventually take the reins.

Story continues below advertisement

Interactive: A visual guide to Trans Mountain's impact on tanker traffic

In depth: A behind-the-scenes look at how the Trans Mountain deal was done

Who‘s for it, who’s against it

Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, gives a news conference with Indigenous leaders and politicians opposed to the Trans Mountain expansion on April 18, 2018.

Darryl Dyck/The Associated Press

First Nations: While some Indigenous nations signed agreements supporting Trans Mountain, many more are immovably opposed, arguing that the pipeline endangers their environmental rights and traditional lands. Some Indigenous groups have fought the pipeline process in court, arguing that First Nations weren’t properly consulted.

B.C.: In 2017, B.C.’s NDP came to power supported by the Greens, and promised to kill the Kinder Morgan project, which the previous provincial Liberal government had approved. Premier John Horgan also sought the courts’ advice about whether he had authority to block diluted bitumen from being shipped across the province by rail, but the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the province doesn’t have that power under the Constitution, and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed.

Alberta: Trans Mountain was one of many issues that led to the 2019 defeat of Rachel Notley’s NDP government, whose plans to increase social spending and balance budgets by 2023 hinged on future oil revenue from pipelines. As premier, she gave the province new powers to restrict how fossil fuels were shipped out of the province, but shelved them (more on that below). Jason Kenney, whose United Conservatives unseated Ms. Notley in last April’s election, activated those powers immediately, threatening to “turn off the taps” to B.C. if it continued to resist Trans Mountain.

What Alberta’s been doing

May 22, 2019: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney looks to the gallery after the Throne Speech was delivered in Edmonton.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

The Trans Mountain battle has dragged on during the tenure of two very different leaders in Alberta: Ms. Notley, who tried a conciliatory tack with B.C. but created powerful legal mechanisms to retaliate against it, and Mr. Kenney, who has threatened to starve B.C. of fuel to make sure it agrees to the project.

Shortly after 2018′s court ruling against the pipeline approval, Ms. Notley pulled the plug on Alberta’s planned carbon-tax increases, saying its support for the federal climate-change plan hinged on Trans Mountain’s eventual completion. Then she introduced Bill 12, the Preserving Canada’s Economic Prosperity Act, which gave the province broad authority over how oil is shipped out of Alberta, and to where. The law allows the province to:

  • Force companies to get a licence before exporting fossil fuels by pipeline, rail or truck
  • Let the Energy Minister set maximum daily amounts of fossil fuels to be exported
  • Let the Energy Minister decide whether export licences are in Alberta's best interests and maintain supply for provincial needs
  • Fine companies up to $10-million a day, and individuals up to $1-million a day, if they break the law

Ms. Notley didn’t use the Bill 12 powers in her last few months as premier, but when Mr. Kenney took office last year, he and his cabinet activated them immediately. In theory, Alberta can tighten oil exports to B.C., driving up prices for fuel and other products, which form a major part of trade between the western provinces.

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C

AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Sask.

$12,731

Que.

$4,157

Que.

$6,350

Sask.

$2,158

Man.

$5,356

Man.

$1,493

Atlantic

$1,529

Atlantic

$3,524

Territories

$1,527

Territories

$968

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for

oil and gas extraction

(except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural,

engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and

biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins -

machinery, equipment

and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen

beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C

AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Sask.

$12,731

Que.

$4,157

Que.

$6,350

Sask.

$2,158

Man.

$5,356

Man.

$1,493

Atlantic

$1,529

Atlantic

$3,524

Territories

$1,527

Territories

$968

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for oil

and gas extraction

(except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural, engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins -

machinery, equipment

and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen

beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

INTERPROVINCIAL EXPORTS, B.C AND ALBERTA, 2014

Goods and services, in millions of dollars

ALBERTA

Total exports: $73,610

B.C.

Total exports: $39,957

Alta.

$17,644

Ont.

$27,369

Ont.

$12,007

B.C.

$16,752

Que.

$4,157

Sask.

$12,731

Sask.

$2,158

Que.

$6,350

Man.

$1,493

Man.

$5,356

Atlantic

$3,524

Atlantic

$1,529

Territories

$968

Territories

$1,527

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO ALBERTA

TOP 5 EXPORTS TO B.C.

Natural gas

$2,277

Support services for oil and gas

extraction (except exploration)

$2,088

Architectural, engineering

and related services

$651

Diesel and biodiesel fuels

$1,582

Conventional crude oil

$632

Conventional crude oil

$1,207

Prepared meals

$628

Gasoline

$1,161

Wholesale margins - machinery,

equipment and supplies

$501

Fresh and frozen beef and veal

$554

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: STATISTICS CANADA

What B.C.'s been doing

When the federal government re-approved the expansion project, Mr. Horgan said he was “disappointed” but that B.C. would not unduly withhold construction permits. “We will continue to defend our environment, our coast, and the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on them,” he said. The province also filed a constitutional challenge to block Mr. Kenney from using Alberta’s punitive Bill 12 powers, and unsuccessfully sought the blessing of B.C. and federal courts to limit oil-by-rail transport within B.C.'s borders.

Story continues below advertisement

What’s at stake for Ottawa, and what it could do next

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period on Feb. 3, 2020.

Blair Gable/Reuters

The Trudeau government’s decision to buy Trans Mountain made it a lightning rod for the criticism and costs of the project. Here’s what that means, and what other issues are at play.

Owning the pipeline: The Kinder Morgan gives the government ownership of the existing pipeline, rights of way along the route and the marine terminal in Burnaby. But once the expansion is built, the government doesn’t plan to be the pipeline’s proprietor for long: It is in negotiation with investors – including Indigenous communities, pension funds and the Alberta government – to eventually take over management of the pipeline.

Indigenous issues: Mr. Trudeau’s government has repeatedly said Indigenous reconciliation is a priority, but the standoff with B.C. First Nations over pipelines is putting that rhetoric to the test.

Climate change: Supporting Trans Mountain was Ottawa’s tradeoff to win Alberta’s support for a national carbon-pricing plan in 2017. That support faltered under Ms. Notley’s premiership, while Mr. Kenney campaigned in open opposition to any carbon tax at all; repealing it was one of his government’s first acts, soon followed by the federal government imposing a carbon price on Albertans. Getting Alberta to support carbon pricing is crucial because, without them, a national policy would be fairly toothless: The province accounted for 38 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. At the same time, building a pipeline that would accelerate global consumption of Canada’s oil is increasingly at odds with environmental policies focused on renewable energy and reduced fossil-fuel use.

March 10, 2018: Indigenous leaders and environmentalists march in Burnaby in protest against Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

Nick Didlick/REUTERS

What First Nations and their allies have been doing

Several Indigenous nations launched legal challenges to the Trans Mountain project, vowing to take it to the Supreme Court if necessary. They cited 2014′s Tsilhqot’in decision by the Supreme Court of Canada, which expanded Indigenous people’s rights of approval over projects on their land. Those challenges gained a major victory with the 2018 Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling, which is one of many cases where courts have found Ottawa’s commitment to Indigenous consultation falling short of its constitutional obligations.

The next major legal challenge at the Federal Court of Appeal came in December, 2019, when a lawsuit by the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, the Coldwater Indian Band and a coalition of small Fraser Valley nations argued that Indigenous people hadn’t given informed and prior consent to the second pipeline approval. The court ruled against them, dismissing the lawsuit.

Story continues below advertisement

What happens if the pipeline isn’t built?

Business: Alberta’s oil and gas sector had high hopes for Trans Mountain after other major pipeline projects — Keystone XL, Northern Gateway and Energy East hit political and regulatory roadblocks in Canada and the United States. Now, what looks like a sure bet is a source of ongoing uncertainty, and oil-industry leaders and major Canadian banks have warned that it will make Canada look like a less attractive investing destination. Here’s a deeper look from The Globe’s Jeff Lewis, Kelly Cryderman and Shawn McCarthy about what might happen in the oil patch if Trans Mountain falls apart.

Politics: For Mr. Trudeau, whose re-election last fall left the Liberals with no seats in Alberta or Saskatchewan, the pipeline dispute is a test of national unity and his government’s varied commitments to the environment, Indigenous people and opening Canada’s natural resources to global markets.

Opinion and analysis

Jeffrey Jones: Trans Mountain’s reapproval doesn’t solve energy sector’s woes

Ed Whittingham: Balancing climate and energy policy, the Trans Mountain pipeline is the right decision for Canada

John Ibbitson: Questions on Trans Mountain, USMCA and ethics could decide Liberals’ fate in fall election

Robert Jago: It’s time to take consultations with First Nations seriously

Andrew Willis: Ottawa stuck with Trans Mountain pipeline other investors wisely rejected

David Milstead: Pipelines aren’t the cash cows many people think they are

Mary Janigan: B.C. politicians need a history lesson

Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Kelly Cryderman, Jeff Lewis, Shawn McCarthy, Brent Jang, Ian Bailey, Justine Hunter, Justin Giovannetti, James Keller and The Canadian Press

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies