Not the end of court challenges for TMX pipeline, says political science professor

The federal government has once again approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but U of S political science professor Greg Poelzer says this isn’t the end of the challenges.

Greg Poelzer says the government will be in a stronger position to defend challenges this time around

Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline is unloaded in Edson, Alta. on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The Trudeau cabinet has once again approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but a Saskatoon political science professor says the legal wrangling is not over.

Greg Poelzer, who is with the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, said he expects there will be more court challenges.

"No matter what the government does, no matter how robust their consultation process is, no matter how robust their environmental impact assessment process is — especially in the marine environment — there are some people who are just philosophically opposed under any circumstance," Poelzer said.

The difference this time, he said, is that the government will be in a strong position to defend those challenges.

Political science professor Greg Poelzer says pipelines are better for the environment. “The carbon footprint for a pipeline is so much better than it is for four for trains,” he says. (Rosalie Woloski/CBC)

The project was first halted in 2016 because the Federal Court of Appeal found Ottawa didn't adequately consult with Indigenous groups and failed to adequately consider how the pipeline could affect marine life in the waters off B.C'.s lower mainland.

The government said it has now addressed those concerns.

'Pipelines are superior'

Poelzer said the pipelines are especially important to Alberta and Saskatchewan because they give these landlocked provinces access to resources.

"This is a good news story for Canada, both for the environment and for global food security," Poelzer said.

He noted that Saskatchewan has limited rail capacity. One report estimated the province was losing $3 billion to $5 billion annually in agricultural products that aren't able to get to global markets. He said the pipeline will open up markets for farmers.

This is a good news story for Canada, both for the environment and for global food security.- Greg Poelzer, political science professor  with the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan 

Not only could the pipelines have an economic benefit at home, Poelzer said, it could also improve the lives of people worldwide.

"If you have restricted supply prices go up. So some of the most vulnerable people on this planet that depend on these global food transport chains are at risk."

There are also environmental and safety concerns around shipping oil by train, he said, citing the the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster.

"For the environment and global food security, no question, pipelines are superior."

Pipelines are safer, says Moe

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is also touting the potential benefits for Saskatchewan's economy. He said that while the pipeline will not be transporting any oil from this province, it will free up space in the rail system for agricultural products and potash.

"The ability to put this product in a pipeline is in the public interest," Moe said. "Not only is it safer, we need that capacity on our rail lines for other products."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the pipeline construction should begin this season.

Moe said he would like to see other pipeline projects approved as well.

"This is good news for Western Canadians but it's also good news for all Canadians," said Moe.


Ashleigh Mattern is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon and CBC Saskatchewan.

With files from Saskatoon Morning


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