On the interest of the “public” and/or the “nation”

photo: Chris LeBoutillier, Pixabay

Every time the topic of the Trans Mountain tanker and pipeline expansion hits the headlines, we are subjected to various public pronouncements by politicians, oil companies, and media figures about how it’s in the “public” or “national” interest. I think it’s important to note that this “public” or “national” interest, cast in primarily economic terms, is not the interest of the actual broad public: benefits to regular Canadians from this industry have declined for a long time, while we give billions away in subsidies to already profitable corporations and their rich investors.

A few things to know:

graphic: National Resources Canada – Crude Oil Facts. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/crude-oil-facts/20064

The “public interest” in this pipeline clearly isn’t about middle-class jobs or filling government coffers. It seems pretty clear that this is the interest of already rich oil investors looking to make much more money. At least some of their profits are our loss: Canada gives oil and gas companies billions of dollars in subsidies, adding more to the total on a seemingly regular basis.

The biggest investors in the Tar Sands include some of Canada’s richest families and the Big Five banks. The Trans Mountain pipeline is being pushed through to benefit their bottom line. This isn’t the first time the interest of Canada’s elite to make more money has been pushed as the interest of the rest of us, however, this is a key distinction to make.

And, of course, this “national interest” doesn’t cover the risk to our coast. There is a high risk of a catastrophic oil spill that for which we aren’t prepared. Even without a spill, regular operations would risk the extinction of the Southern Resident orca. And the project will release tremendous amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, further destabilizing our shared climate.

Even Canada’s captured energy regulator agrees that the risks are great. In their reassessment report, issued in February 2019, the National Energy Board stated that the project will have a “significant adverse environmental effects” on Southern Resident orca, that the impacts of a spill would be “environmentally significant,” and the Project-related greenhouse gas emissions “are likely to be significant.”

So the next time you hear the powers-that-be opining on Trans Mountain and the “national interest,” remember that interest is that of Calgary board rooms and Toronto law firms. It is not the interest of workers, the public at large, or the coastal communities we call home.

3 thoughts on “On the interest of the “public” and/or the “nation”

  1. Regular oil and Tarsands oil production has more than doubled in the last ten years, yet royalty revenues and corporate income taxes are less than half what they used to be, in Canada !

  2. Well done ! ! Keep reminding/ telling us what is really in the “natonal interest”, or in whose interests this pipeline is really representing. We keep hearing those magic parroted words but it really is “the fat get fatter and the rich get richer.”

    Keep up the good work.

    Thank you,


  3. Altho we have been working toward safe healthy sustainable for the people for the land for the future treatment and care of all of Canada
    it appears that those in power prefer to cater to the rich not the people or the land
    altro this is unthinkable it is happening

    what we are doing to stop this is not eliminating it yet but it is stalling it an has been now for many years

    i say good congratulations to all the folks who are willing to be on the front line witnessing and responding to all that is happening

    this is our success and it is good
    let’s keep it up

    together we stand

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