Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

Your member of parliament for

Beaches-East York

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith

Your member of parliament for

Beaches-East York


My Thoughts on the TMX Project

Read my thoughts on the Government's decision to approve the TMX pipeline

I’ve been vocal in support of stronger climate action, most recently by introducing a bill to require that Canada reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

From recent posts, I know that a number of people have questions about how the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline can fit within a serious climate plan. Pipeline politics can be polarizing, so I wanted to take some time to explain the government’s decision.

Bottom line:

We need to meet our overall emissions reduction targets, and support a just transition for workers in affected sectors.

While the TMX project will likely increase Canada’s GHG emissions to some extent, we can reduce those emissions elsewhere in our domestic and global economies at a much lower cost than the high economic cost of blocking the project and, importantly, the government has committed all proceeds from TMX to the transition to a clean economy.

Longer explanation with links:

First, it is important to note that there are a number of non-climate related issues, from the potential impacts on whales and wildlife due to increased tanker traffic, to the duty to meaningfully consult with affected Indigenous communities. It was these two issues that caused the Federal Court of Appeal to reverse TMX’s initial approval, and the government has worked hard to address them.

Second, while we have made significant progress (price on pollution, coal phase-out, stringent methane rules, clean fuel standard, investments in public transit, clean vehicle incentives, and energy efficiency etc.), our society and economy will continue to depend on fossil fuels for the immediate future.

Blocking the TMX project would not reduce global oil demand. But it would come at a significant cost to the Canadian economy, and especially in Alberta. Scotiabank estimates that the current lack of pipeline capacity costs the economy $7 billion per year.

To some extent, new pipeline capacity will displace rail and result in safer transportation without any increased emissions.

To the extent that it will increase emissions (Environment Canada estimates the increase at 13 to 15 Mt per year), not only have the incremental emissions already been included in the government’s national projections, but we can reduce emissions elsewhere in our economy and abroad at a much lower cost in comparison to the high economic cost of blocking TMX.

Economists Blake Shaffer and Trevor Tombe have pointed out that blocking pipelines is a very costly way of reducing emissions, and that more cost effective and efficient measures include, 1) increasing the stringency of other domestic policies, 2) buying international offsets, and 3) directly funding projects that lower emissions abroad.

See here for their analysis:

In sum, the TMX approval can fit within a serious climate plan with the right mix of policies overall.

And it is made easier now that the government has committed all proceeds from TMX (including sale proceeds) to the transition to a clean economy.

In the words of Ed Whittingham, environmentalist and former executive director of the Pembina Institute, TMX is “going to create some of the financial capacity we need to make those investments, to retool our companies and our economy so we’re competitive in a low carbon economy.”

Whittingham also wrote this op-ed worth reading in support of Canada’s decision on TMX. Click here for the full article.

His interview with the CBC is here.

And a similar case in support of the government’s decision can be found here from the Toronto Star’s editorial board:

Lastly, even experts and environmentalists who were skeptical of the TMX approval continue to believe that Canada has been a climate leader under this Liberal government.

Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainability at SFU, has written that “In just four years, [new policies] have transformed Canada from a global pariah under the Harper government to a model for climate action under Trudeau” noting that “In climate policy, experts agree that Canada is finally a global leader.”

The full op-ed is available here:

Meanwhile Steven Guilbeault, one of the founders of environmentalist group Équiterre, has recently announced his candidacy for the Liberal Party of Canada in this coming election. I hope that he is successful, and that we add another strong voice in our caucus for serious climate action.