The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion is Indigenous Economic Reconciliation

Trans Mountain Expansion is Indigenous Economic Reconciliation cover

The Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline (TMX) is nearing completion, which is great news for Canadians and First Nations! If you don't know already, this project entails the "twinning" of the original pipeline, which has operated safely without major incident since the 1950s.

The 1,150-kilometre pipeline begins in Edmonton, Alberta, just south of the oil sands, and traverses the Rocky Mountains to Burnaby, British Columbia, specifically to the West Ridge Marine Terminal.

TMX will have a new capacity of 890,000 barrels per day (bpd), up from roughly 300,000 bpd for the original pipeline. The expansion will open up much larger quantities of oil to new markets such as California and Asia, while helping Canada reduce the current discount on its Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil index price and supplement the world with the responsible and reliable energy it needs.

Internationally, the stakes are growing as everyone anticipates the flow of crude oil through TMX. It's not just investors watching with bated breath, but also Canadians and Indigenous communities as the success of this pipeline is crucial to Canada's economy today and in the future.

Upon Kinder Morgan abandoning the pipeline largely due to costly regulatory delays, it was refreshing to see the federal government take ownership of the project which also seemed to get more Indigenous people involved. After all, 120 out of 129 First Nations potentially affected by the pipeline either support the project or do not oppose it.

Indigenous involvement in projects like TMX is ushering in a new era of economic reconciliation. The impact of engagement between Trans Mountain and First Nations along its route has been monumental in providing economic opportunities for Indigenous communities. Throughout TMX's construction, thousands of Indigenous people gained education, training and employment, while countless Indigenous businesses and contractors were acquired for a variety of goods and services. As of December 2022, for example, TMX and its contractors had:

  • Employed more than 3,100 Indigenous workers
  • Spent more than $4.84 billion on 6,088 Indigenous contracts

These figures above would undoubtedly be much larger if they were up to date.

The long-term benefits of TMX and other major natural resource projects in Canada will undoubtedly positively impact remote First Nations communities for decades. Local infrastructure improvements, new sewer/water/roads, two new export berths, environmental stewardship initiatives, new government revenue sources, and countless community donations from contractors are just the tip of the iceberg of benefits created by TMX.

As the pipeline is completed, many construction-related jobs will disappear, but countless lasting and meaningful work hours have been created for First Nations and Canadians alike. And now, with Indigenous ownership of TMX on the horizon, many Indigenous communities are poised to benefit for decades to come by becoming majority stakeholders and generating own-source revenues through pipeline tolls and fees.

However, as TMX reaches completion, our provincial and federal governments mustn't become complacent with project timelines and continue to work on moving towards creating meaningful and substantial economic reconciliation opportunities with First Nations.

We all win when the Canadian economy is flourishing, when our abundant natural resources are developed and produced, and when First Nations finally have a say as majority owners and stakeholders in major energy, mining, and forestry projects across the country. 

About the Authorestella petersen oil sands worker

Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.