Conservatives, Council of Canadians decry purchase of Trans Mountain Pipeline

Members of the Council of Canadians pose with their signs outside of MP Randy Hoback's Prince Albert office on June 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy Nancy Carswell)

A pair of unlikely allies found themselves on the same side of a contentious issue Monday, though for very different reasons.

The Council of Canadians, an advocacy group that advocates for a shift away from the use of fossil fuels, held a national day of action Monday to protest the federal government’s announced plan to buy Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline assets for $4.5 billion. The Prince Albert chapter participated by protesting outside of MP Randy Hoback’s office.

And while politically, Hoback and the Council of Canadians rarely see eye-to-eye, not spending $4.5 billion in public money on a pipeline is one thing they can agree on.

“(The Council of Canadians) is against pipelines in general. We need to leave the oil in the soil,” chapter spokesperson Nancy Carswell said.

About a dozen people showed up to the demonstration with signs offering suggestions for better ways to spend $4.5 billion, including education, veterans, renewable energy and clean drinking water for First Nations people living on reserve.

The group came with a list of alternative ways to spend the money going to the Trans Mountain Pipeline. They handed that list to a staffer, with the intent of getting it to Hoback, and eventually, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We’re in agreement that the buyout is a bad idea,” Carswell said of Hoback, “Although the reasoning and the rational is very different.”

In response to the day of action, Hoback put out a statement himself condemning the decision to nationalize the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“This handout of taxpayers’ money will not build one inch of new pipeline,” he wrote.

“Every penny of the purchase will go into the pockets of a Texas oil company which will now build pipelines outside of Canada in competition with our industry.

“Under Trudeau’s leadership, our oil industry went from Kinder Morgan wanting to invest $7 billion in Canada, to sending over $4 billion of taxpayers’ money out of our country into the United States. Trudeau vetoed the approved Northern Gateway pipeline and killed the Energy East pipeline with last minute rule changes and a regulatory standard that do not apply to companies shipping oil into Canada. Kinder Morgan wanted certainty, not taxpayer money to build its pipeline.”

Hoback also argued fewer regulations would have guaranteed the conditions for success to build the pipeline, even though current delays are being caused by objections from the BC government. He also argued that the pipeline purchase would give the federal government total control of movement of oil to tidewater “if the government choses to ban the transport of oil by rail and truck when the pipeline is completed

“The industry could face a slow and agonizing death through federally imposed regulation,” the statement said.

While Hoback would like to see regulations removed and the oil industry grow, the Council of Canadians would like to see that $4.5 billion used instead to retrain people working in the oil sector to make them employable in the renewable energy sector.

“We need to rapidly transition off fossil fuels towards a fossil free economy,” Carswell said.

“By building a pipeline, we are perpetuating our dependence on fossil fuels, particularly by ripping and shipping it out of the country on bitumen. Let’s take this 4.5 billion and start retraining workers who want retraining.”

Carswell mentioned a group, Iron and Earth, led by workers and aiming to help train people working in oil and gas into renewable energy workers.

“Workers in the oilfields can do many things,” Carswell said, “And they prefer to do renewables.”