Analysis: The Feds Ride To TMX’s Rescue

British Colombia’s Premier John Horgan, environmentalist-extraordinaire Tzeporah Berman, the other leaders of the anti-Trans Mountain expansion (TMX) movement and their minions have lost the pipeline war. Some of them appear to recognize this fact, and will likely capitulate in the near future, especially with additional inducements, and others will require more forceful persuasion to accept the inevitable.

By agreeing to purchase Houston-based Kinder Morgan’s Canadian assets for $4.5 billion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ruling Liberal Party have staked their political future on having TMX constructed in a timely fashion in an attempt to protect the Canadian constitution and federalism, the country’s economy and the rule of law — in a nutshell, the national interest. The feds know as well as anyone what it will take to twin the pipeline — get the B.C. government to stop laying legal landmines in the project’s path; and crush the anti-TMX protest movement as quickly and humanely as possible — and given what is at stake, will likely use a combination of carrots and sticks to do so.

In response to the feds announcement on the morning of May 29, Horgan indicated that the change in the pipeline’s ownership does not change his government’s concerns about the TMX project, in particular, the potential negative impact of a diluted bitumen spill on the province’s offshore waters, coastline and economy. He also indicated that the Trudeau government’s decision to nationalize Trans Mountain would not change his government’s current effort to contest exclusive federal jurisdiction over the TMX project with the B.C. Court of Appeal on environmental grounds.

But on a more optimistic note, Horgan said his government’s concerns about TMX will be easier to address with the feds taking charge of the project, suggesting the potential for compromise and ultimately an end to new legal challenges by B.C. — Kinder Morgan has won all 16 lawsuits against the project by a variety of claimants to date. In terms of potential inducements for B.C., it would appear logical for the feds to offer at least additional funding and resources for its $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan.

In contrast, the eco-warriors are on the warpath. In a statement released by on the day of the feds’ announcement, Tzeporah Berman, the organization’s new deputy director, said:

“This decision will haunt the Trudeau government. Those of us who knocked on doors for him will not forget that he took billions of dollars from Canadian families to buy out an oil pipeline that violates Indigenous rights and our commitments on climate change. Thousands of people have committed to stand with Indigenous leaders to stop this pipeline. All hell is about to break loose in British Columbia.”

It is common knowledge that civil disobedience movements grow over time and become more virulent, until they get what they are fighting for — for example, the Berman-led War in the Woods at Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island in the early 1990s — or are violently crushed — for example, the No Dakota Access Pipeline movement at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation from April 2016 to February 2017.

As a result, we should expect a preponderant show of force by the feds once the anti-TMX protests begin in earnest in an attempt to minimize their growth, and hence, the amount of violence that will ultimately be needed to crush them. This force will include a large, well-trained police presence on the ground, and possibly members of the Canadian Armed Forces — based on a December 2016 comment by Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr, despite the minister walking it back at the time.

In this case, Justin would simply be taking a page out of his father’s playbook. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau quickly crushed the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) by evoking the War Measures Act in October 1969. Although not as catchy, Justin’s TMX mantra, “We’re going to get that pipeline built,” may one day be as famous as “Just watch me,” Pierre’s comment at the beginning of the October Crisis.