Trans Mountain – A Canadian Soap Opera

The soap opera that is the Trans Mountain pipeline completed another episode this week.   In this episode there was some nasty dialogue about hidden motivations, hurt feelings, frustration, betrayals and outrage.o-KINDER-MORGAN-PIPELINE-570

  • Don Braid, a Calgary columnist, with tongue in cheek, proposed that if the BC government was so anti-oil, perhaps we should stop sending BC crude for their refinery in the existing Trans Mountain pipeline. This was met with a BC columnist’s complaint that the column was “not helpful”.
  • In October, Kinder Morgan appealed to the National Energy Board saying Burnaby was wrongly withholding construction permits despite federal approval.

Burnaby – Villain or Injured Municipality ?

  • Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is very vocal critic of the pipeline. It is good local politics. He had said previously he would stand in front of the bulldozer if necessary. Corrigan.jpg
  • Recently he complained that Kinder Morgan tried to pressure him with the threat of the NEB. He told them to bring it on!  And then said it was insulting to suggest that Burnaby was withholding permit approvals.


  • By way of background Burnaby has twice been in court to stop the pipeline expansion. The BC court of Appeals in 2014 denied the City appeal of an earlier court order concluding it was a collateral attack and abuse of process. In 2015, the BC Supreme Court said, “Burnaby is here because it was unsuccessful elsewhere. In my view, it is an abuse of process, for Burnaby to be seeking here the relief it failed to obtain at the NEB and in the Federal Court of Appeal.
  • It is not quite clear what exactly are the problems with the approvals. One of the issues is that the City wants Trans Mountain to count and compensate for trees that are removed. Another has to do with managing parking during construction. There is another issue related to the zoning bylaw.
  • Burnaby is very unhappy with the quality of the talent that Trans Mountain has hired for the job. They apparently are in-experienced, incompetent and inept. And they would not take the good advice offered by City staff.  

Trans Mountain – Incompetent or held hostage by parochial interests

  • Trans Mountain says the City has refused to set up regular meetings and then claimed that they are too busy on other files to respond.
  • Trans Mountain is feeling aggrieved because they gave the City $1.2 million so the City would have the resources available to deal with the application.

The Supporting Cast

  • When Tran Mountain went to the NEB they got the backing of Alberta and Saskatchewan. BC backed Burnaby.
  • Brad Wall of Saskatchewan said Burnaby was stalling deliberately. Burnaby was outraged and demanded he retract the statement. But he didn’t.
  • Rachel Notley went on a cross-country tour to support the pipeline. Her message was the pipeline was in the national interest.  She said “there isn’t a school, hospital, bike lane or port anywhere in the country that does not owe something to Alberta’s energy sector.”
  • But the more pointed message was the feds ought to ‘step in’ and support the company because Burnaby was taking too long to approve construction permits.
  • Natural Resource Minister Carr, who had previously taken a hands off approach,  weighed in, writing to the NEB with a suggestion of a dispute resolution panel.
  • Well wouldn’t you know it! That caused the BC government to take a fit! The Environment Minister told Carr; “the federal government should get its nose out of British Columbia’s business.
  • The BC government says due to Trans Mountains incompetence only 66 of 1,200 provincial approvals are in place.
  • Jagmeet Singh the freshly minted federal NDP leader, joined in too. In June he said he opposed the pipeline, supporting the NDP in BC, over Alberta’s government.
  • When he learned of Carr’s letter, he said the federal letter was a “betrayal of the people of BC”.   Although the NDP in Alberta might feel a bit betrayed too!

The NEB Decision

The Board held a two-day hearing in Calgary on November 29 and December 4, 2017. They decided that Trans Mountain is not required to obtain preliminary plan approvals and tree cutting permits for Trans Mountain’s Burnaby Terminal, and Westridge Marine Terminal.  This means construction can begin immediately.

The NEB has yet to deal with the second Trans Mountain request for a generic process to deal with future permitting issues.

The Next Episode – Wait for the next chapter of this saga

  • Will BC and Burnaby appeal to the Federal Court of Appeals???
  • Will the NEB establish a panel to deal with permitting issues???
  • Will there be public protests, and calls to dismember the NEB – again???