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April 8, 2021 | Resource Works: Trans Mountain’s Request is About the Integrity of the Public Process

Stewart Muir is founder and executive director of the Resource Works Society, a Vancouver-based group open to participation by British Columbians from all walks of life who are concerned about their future economic opportunities. He is an author, journalist and historian with experience on three continents including a financial editor of The Vancouver Sun responsible for mining and markets coverage. Since Resource Works was established in 2014, the group has gained international recognition for its practical approach to the public challenges of responsible natural resource development and use.

In a last-ditch effort to stop TMX, its insurers are being targeted and intimidated. Resource Works supports Trans Mountain’s request to make insurer identities confidential, support civil dialogue, and uphold the public process.

Nine years ago in February 2021, Kinder Morgan Canada first proposed to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to the west coast. After nearly a decade of good-faith consultation, study and review, the Project passed every democratic and judicial hurdle before it. Through years of consultation and scrutiny, it was twice reviewed and recommended by the National Energy Board (NEB), now the Canada Energy Regulator (CER)—first in 2016 and then in 2019 with expanded study and additional conditions, bringing the total conditions to 173.

Twice, the project was approved by the federal cabinet. On June 18, 2019 the Government of Canada approved the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX or the Project) for the second time. The Project won two challenges before the Federal Court of Appeal and three before the Supreme Court of Canada, regarding everything from the federal government’s jurisdictional authority to the reasonability of its approval of the Project.

But in a last-ditch effort to stop TMX, some opponents have launched a public relations campaign targeting the Project’s insurers, demanding that they drop coverage. After limited success throughout the summer, the pipeline’s opponents escalated their tactics.

Three insurance companies covering TMX saw their offices and employees targeted from February to March, 2021. Employees cited multiple safety concerns as protestors blockaded roads, occupied lobbies, blocked building entrances and exits, and clashed with Vancouver police.

Days later, Trans Mountain formally asked the CER for permission to keep the identity of its insurers confidential in the future. The regulator then initiated a period for public comment before making a decision, which is yet to be announced.

On March 22nd, Resource Works submitted a letter to the CER in support of Trans Mountain’s request.

In its letter, Resource Works argues that civil discourse and the integrity of the public process are being threatened by the tactics of certain pipeline opponents. Instead of adding to the public dialogue, disclosing this information has only served to reduce fact-based conversations. And instead of furthering the public interest, the disclosure allows activists to target individuals and businesses when they fail to win debates in the public sphere, holding the regulatory system hostage.

The CER’s public comment period is now closed, but Trans Mountain’s reply to all submissions can be found here.

The CER “will consider all comments filed during this comment process, as well as the comments already submitted…. in its determination of this matter.”

Stewart Muir, Executive Director of Resource Works, said: “Turning down the Project’s request for confidentiality would make it easier to conduct harassment campaigns while providing no benefit to Canadians.”

“By approving Trans Mountain’s request of confidentiality, the CER would be acting in the public’s financial interest and in its wider interest in the integrity of the public process and the civility of political debate. For these reasons, we encourage the CER to approve Trans Mountain’s request for confidentiality immediately.”

The regulator is yet to announce its decision.

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April 8th, 2021

Posted In: Resource Works

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