With Tuesday’s bombshell announcement that the federal government will purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion, emotions are running high on all sides of the debate.
Ottawa made the decision in the face of a May 31 deadline by Kinder Morgan, with the company threatening to pull out if the government couldn’t assure the project would be built.
The decision has earned a mixed reaction, with even some pipeline supporters displeased with the idea of government ownership.
On Wednesday, Vancouver’s 980 CKNW and Calgary’s 770 CHQR held a simulcast with hosts Jon McComb and Danielle Smith to sample opinion on both sides of the Rockies about the latest twist in the pipeline saga.
Here’s a sampling of what Albertans and British Columbians had to say.
WATCH: Notley says Ottawa buying pipeline limits BC’s ability to hamper
Blame the politicians
Not many callers had very nice things to say about how Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has handled the pipeline file.
“I think we should call it the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline. Because he’s toast. He is toast,” said Dan from B.C., a pipeline supporter.
“I think this thing is going to cost him the prime ministership, and I think it should because he’s demonstrated a total and complete lack of leadership on this.”
LISTEN: The CKNW – 630 CHED Pipeline Hotline
Les in Alberta agreed, saying Canadians have been left with a multi-billion dollar bill because the federal government didn’t step up and push the project through.
“The B.C.-ers that I’ve talked to, 90 per cent of them are in favour of it,” he said.
“It’s just like the Trans Canada Highway, we’ve made it wider and bigger – sure, you’re still going to get hazards of animals getting hit on the road. On the big scheme of things, the oil needs to go so that it will provide benefits to all Canadians.”
“I’m not too happy with Trudeau at all,” added Leslie in B.C.
“I wish he would have put his prime minister hat on his head for a change and said to the environmentalists, ‘Hey back off, this is going through.'”
WATCH: Did the Prime Minister have a choice on Trans Mountain?
But Tim in B.C. saw it a different way.
“The Liberals probably made the decision that was the most pragmatic because down the road, a lot of people, whether they’re for it or not, may find it beneficial or it works in their favour.”
But Trudeau didn’t get all the heat. Some callers laid the blame squarely in Victoria.
“Trudeau was forced to do this because of John Horgan. If John Horgan hadn’t done all of this complaining and whining about stopping it [at] all costs, Kinder Morgan would be behind it 100 per cent,” said Richard in B.C.
“What does John Horgan feel the difference is with winning his court case and slowing down the bitumen flow in the pipeline, and Rachel Notley slowing down the bitumen with a law?” added Wayne in Alberta.
WATCH: ‘Our reference case remains’: Horgan on controlling pipeline oil flow in B.C.
It’s the economy, stupid
It’s been a common refrain in the debate, and unsurprisingly callers from both provinces again reiterated support for the pipeline based on its anticipated economic contribution to Canada.
“I would like to be like Dubai and do everything safer than anyone else in the wold,” said Grant in Alberta.
“And pick up a nice cheque for about $1,500 a month from the government to be able to go out and buy flat screen TVs, towards a new car, towards everything else and get this country going.”
Dan in B.C. said the money the pipeline brings to Canada is crucial for social services.
“The hippies and the tree huggers here in Vancouver think we can just magically do all of these things without having the money for it. And the reality is that the rest of Canada and a lot of people here in Vancouver support this thing,” he said.
Rick in B.C. agreed that money is a key factor in the future of the project, but said what the province is getting from the deal isn’t enough.
“At this stage of the game, the pipeline is going through. The reality of the risk that B.C. is going to pay with tankers leaving the province is a real event. And B.C. has now, whether we like it or not, become part of the oil producing chain of Canada,” he said.
“What really irks me is we’re not seeing the profit portion of it. I would like to see us getting 20 per cent of the revenue that the Alberta government gets… because we’re carrying all of that risk.”
Eric in Alberta was OK with Canada owning the pipeline if it meant federal money coming back to the province.
“After all of these days of Quebec getting all of our equalization money, I am so happy that equalization that we pay is going back to Alberta,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate it had to be done this way, but hey, at least the money is coming back to us.”
WATCH: Trans Mountain purchase sparks heated argument in House of Commons
Jason in B.C. said he was “disappointed” and “heartbroken” about the decision for environmental reasons.
“So much is out there, so many jobs can be created within this green revolution. It can be done. This is taking us 30 years back,” he said.
“There’s not an appreciation for the degree of upset that we on the coast feel, because we are looking at our way of life being completely threatened by this,” added Carl from B.C.
“We’re looking at the possible loss of our orcas, we’re looking at possible loss to our fishing, to our tourism, to our movie industry, it’s frightening.”
Matthew from B.C. called himself a pipeline “moderate” but said he’d gone to some protests because a seven-fold increase in tankers is too risky.
“You know, half the risk and I probably wouldn’t be out there, and a lot of the people I’m seeing probably wouldn’t be out there either, the 40-hour a week people, they probably wouldn’t be protesting either, they’d probably find better things to do with their life if the proposal wasn’t so extreme.”
But east of the Rockies, many callers felt a degree of hypocrisy in B.C.’s environmental concerns.
“I haven’t heard any complaining over the last 40 years about all the oil tanker traffic going down the west coast,” said Gary in Alberta.
“B.C. seems to be more concerned about their environment and the damage to an oil spill and the coast, yet they have the biggest problem with their own industry, their coal, their pulp, the cruise liners that dump in their ocean. And they’re the third worst polluter in Canada,” added Dianne in Alberta.
WATCH: B.C. reacts to Ottawa’s deal to purchase Trans Mountain pipeline
Several callers proposed their own solutions for resolving the pipeline dispute.
James in Saskatchewan called for an independent, third-party auditor to step in.
“What needs to happen is there needs to be some clarification on the major issues. There seems to be myth, hyperbole, even mis-directed intentionally arguments. And there’s a necessity to clarify some of this,” he said.
Jim in B.C. said with carbon taxes — and the price of fuel — rising, the answer is to build the pipe… but refine the contents here in Canada.
“If you’re going to build a pipeline, then you put the money aside to build a refinery either in Alberta or B.C. that that bitumen goes to as well, and that fuel is provided to this local economy at a reasonable price,” he said.
And Grant in Alberta had his own proposal: put the project up for a vote, then close the book once and for all.
“With the numbers that are coming out in the polls in B.C. with how many people support it, I would love to see a referendum,” he said.
The federal government’s deal with Kinder Morgan is set to close in August, at which point Canada would own the project.
The Liberal government says the purchase will be on an interim basis, and the government will then seek new owners for the line.