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Lori Ackerman: Pipeline opportunities still exist, but we must move quickly

Project Reconciliation Feature 400x270

Opinion: Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport liquids overland across long distances. Without them, our economy is at real risk.


Whether you live in the West, in Ontario, in Quebec, or in the Atlantic provinces, energy touches virtually every aspect of your life. It supports your work, your leisure, your healthcare, your education and infrastructure — even the food you eat.

In a Northern municipality like Fort St. John, where I live, it’s no different — but it’s perhaps more obvious. The extraction, processing and transmission of Canadian energy resources take place in front of our faces everyday. 

We see the direct impacts of energy markets and their effects on all of us — Indigenous and non-Indigenous, young and old, east and west.

That’s why my community has been so supportive of the federal cabinet’s recent approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. We’re keenly aware that without additional pipeline capacity to tidewater and the global markets that lie beyond it, Canada is forced to sell virtually all its energy resources to a single customer, the U.S., at a deep discount.

That lack of pipeline capacity has enormous implications not only for my community but for the country; the lost opportunity to Canada is estimated at as much as $80 million per day and the knock-on effects hit workers and their families, communities, provinces and the federal treasury.

Without the additional pipeline capacity that TMX would provide, we feel as though we’re swinging at the end of a pendulum, and we’re just managing to hold on for dear life. Market access is absolutely crucial to getting that pendulum under control.

I mentioned Indigenous communities for a reason. My city of Fort St. John has made economic development with First Nations a priority. Indigenous communities across Canada have for far too long found themselves in a situation where the management of poverty consumes their administrative time. 

That’s why I’m supportive of initiatives such as Project Reconciliation, an Indigenous-led effort to purchase a majority stake in TMX, giving Indigenous communities a seat at the decision-making table, a significant revenue stream with which to invest in green infrastructure projects, and the assurance of solid governance and environmental stewardship.

Led by former First Nations chiefs in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, proponents of Project Reconciliation point to the fact the Indigenous purchase would be backed by long-term shipping agreements, thus no expenditure of government funds would be needed for the initiative to move forward.

Models like this one that advance reconciliation seem likely to provide the most responsible outcome for every Canadian, including those who care about the environment.

Furthermore, pipelines are the safest, most efficient way to transport liquids overland across long distances. Without them, our economy is at real risk.

According to recent media reports, capital spending in the U.S. oil and gas sector has jumped 38 per cent since 2016, while capital spending in Canada is down 19 per cent over the same period.

It’s no wonder that while Canadian pipeline construction continues to be delayed, within only three years there have been fully three new oil pipelines from the Permian Basin in Texas that have been approved and are, today, under construction.

Canadians can’t wait any longer. It’s time to work together, forge the required partnerships and get on with building the pipeline.

Lori Ackerman is mayor of Fort St. John. Earlier this year, her efforts at striking a balance among energy development, community representation and First Nations partnerships earned her the title Canadian Energy Person of the Year from the Energy Council of Canada.

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