By September 11, 2015 Read More →

Oil pipelines: Infrastructure of national importance

Canadian oil pipelines mired in lengthy review processes

By Glenn Booth

oil pipelines

Oil pipelines are part of Canadian infrastructure that has helped build Canada.  Trans Mountain photo.

Over the last five years or so, the Canadian petroleum industry has been seeking to build new pipeline capacity in order to reach tidewater and global markets. However, as many are aware, all the major projects have been stalled in lengthy review processes. The Trans Mountain Expansion Project is proceeding through the NEB regulatory process and the Board is due to deliver its decision in early 2016. But in the meantime, none of the proposed projects have been built.

At a time like this, it’s important for us to remember that infrastructure has helped make Canada a great nation. Canada’s history has been one of bringing people into the country, building great communities and exporting our goods to the rest of the world. And infrastructure has always been the key to getting our goods to market. Starting with the CP Railway that helped make us a nation, projects like the St. Lawrence Seaway, the TransCanada Pipeline and the Trans-Canada Highway have been the platform upon which our wealth has been built.

Another key element in our nation’s success has been the co-operation between our provinces to facilitate trade. The Fathers of Confederation realized that trade and economic prosperity are the building blocks of nationhood and they forged a nation that enabled trade to flourish. They jointly recognized that both interprovincial trade and international trade should be under federal jurisdiction.

When we see the incredible difficulties we face today in constructing new pipelines, we need to remind ourselves who is best placed to make decisions in the national public interest.

Currently, the NEB is the body charged with that responsibility. While the NEB process is far from perfect, it does take into account all matters associated with construction and operation of a pipeline, including the potential impacts of spills on the environment, public health and safety, impacts on landowners, rights of First Nations and economic benefits. If approval is granted, the NEB also lays down a rigorous list of conditions that must be respected before, during and after construction (207 for Enbridge Northern Gateway).

Local and even provincial interests are often upset when a pipeline is approved by the NEB and many feel that industry is listened to more carefully than the public. With more than 26 years of experience working at the Board, I know this is not the case. The Board listens carefully to everyone. And, at the end of the day, the NEB is charged with making a decision in the national public interest – a decision for the good of many.

While NEB decisions may not satisfy everyone, it’s best that we have a national body with a national perspective making these decisions. This is the path to prosperity. The alternative is devolution to a weaker confederation with everyone worse off in the long run.

Glenn Booth

Glenn Booth, Principal of Veracity Plus.

In the course of more than 26 years at the National Energy Board (NEB), Glenn Booth worked in many capacities, including Chief Economist and Business Leader of Communications and External Engagement. Currently, Glenn is Principal of Veracity Plus, a consulting business located in Calgary, Alberta.  Glenn has provided consulting services to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.


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