rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The Trans Mountain pipeline should remain under direct public ownership

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi

If the Trans Mountain Pipeline is so essential to the economic wellbeing of Canada, and the price of Alberta bitumen is going to rise dramatically as a result of our ability to get that stuff to "tidewater," why the heck is the federal government, having paid a premium to buy the thing, in such a hurry to unload it?

I mean, we all know that nowadays all federal parties are lousy with neoliberals who unjustifiably disdain the ability of governments to do things better than profit-motivated private corporations -- despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Not only that, but many of us are so propagandized by the relentlessly peddled fantasies of market fundamentalism that the idea of a nation taking on a task of national importance makes us feel hinky.

Notwithstanding all that, Ottawa's new point man on the project, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, seems to be in an indecent hurry to dump the pipeline, for which we Canadians have just paid Texas-based Kinder-Morgan Inc. $4.5 billion.

If the former Edmonton city councillor, appointed to his new federal cabinet post by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month, succeeds with that objective, I'm sorry to have to advise you, we're all almost certainly going to take a bath, metaphorically speaking.

When government spokespeople say they have no interest in hanging onto the thing, even if it's the government that ends up spending the additional $7-billion plus to complete the expansion project, sharp corporate buyers are bound to smell the blood in the water.

So it's this writer's opinion that it is time for Sohi and his fellow Liberals to take a breath and leave the pipeline where it belongs, under direct public ownership, or at least as a Crown corporation, as befits a major national public works program of strategic importance to the national economy.

Those of you conditioned to assume this is crazy need to take a breath too. Back in February, when I first wrote that public ownership was the only way to square the circle of massive opposition to the project on the West Coast with the consensus in Edmonton and Ottawa that it must be built, even insiders within Alberta’s NDP government thought I was, if not completely nuts, certainly going over the top for rhetorical effect.

So they've told me. And yet here we are!

Nothing fundamental has changed since I wrote: "if an expanded pipeline capable of carrying diluted bitumen from north central Alberta to the West Coast is essential to the health of the national economy, and the survival of Alberta's, then the federal government should build it and run it."

I argued then that this move would, or at least could:

  • Reassure both British Columbians and Albertans, including Indigenous peoples, regardless of their points of view on the specifics of the project.
  • Ensure meaningful financial and environmental accountability, impossible with a commercial corporation.
  • Protect good jobs, with fair wages, and adequate staffing to protect the environment along the way and on the coast.
  • Holistically include environmental and coastal protections in the overall scope of the project without the temptation to cut safety corners to pad the bottom line.
  • Restore to our national government partial influence over an essential industry it lost when it foolishly privatized Petro-Canada.
  • Reassure Canadians outside Alberta that this isn't just a boondoggle to enrich a few well-placed corporate bosses in other countries.
  • Possibly even ensure our oil sands activities do not trash our climate commitments under the Paris Agreement and international climate change measures yet to come.

Plus, if those wonderful predictions about the "Asian premium" are true, it will make money for us all.

And without a doubt, handing the pipeline back to the private sector will re-energize the West Coast environmental movement to redouble its efforts to stop the pipeline.

That's because for-profit capitalists are simply not capable of putting the needs of Canadians and Canada's environment before short-term profit. It's a feature of capitalism, not (as they say) a bug.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David Climenhaga

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.