Skip to content

Federal election is Horgan’s opportunity to get what B.C. needs out of TMX

Caroline Elliott: BC’s leverage will never be greater – now’s the time to demand TMX set aside some capacity to bring down gas prices.
Horgan Jan 9

As a too-close-to-call federal election gets underway, John Horgan and the BC NDP will never have a better opportunity to get what they want out of Ottawa.

With party leaders vying for crucial votes here, we need to get commitments from them that serve our best interests, no matter which party wins on October 21.

In B.C., there is little doubt the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will be a key election issue, and Horgan needs to recognize this as an important opportunity.

To date, Horgan’s NDP have been trying to appease their Green Party partners by opposing Trans Mountain every step of the way. This may play well with some of the NDP’s environmental supporters and Green Party MLAs in Victoria, but doesn’t reflect the views of regular British Columbians, well over half of whom want the expansion to proceed. (Less than a third are opposed).

It’s one thing to ignore the views of the majority of British Columbians. It’s quite another to throw good taxpayer money after bad to oppose a project most of them support.

The NDP's position on pipelines is at best confusing, and at worst contradictory.

In one court case, the NDP government is seeking to constrain the flow of petroleum products through B.C., asking the courts if they have the legal means to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. Despite losing decisively in a unanimous 5-0 decision, the NDP have doubled down by launching an appeal.

"Ironically, the NDP government’s arguments in this case emphasize just how integral this pipeline is to B.C."

In another court case, in response to Alberta’s ‘turn off the taps’ legislation, they’re asking the courts to keep those very same petroleum products flowing.

Ironically, the NDP government’s arguments in this case emphasize just how integral this pipeline is to B.C. They point out that without a reliable source of fuel, services like healthcare and wildfire fighting would be impaired, let alone the impact on the costs of everyday goods and services.

It’s not too late for the NDP to change track, especially given a recent B.C. Utilities Commission report into high gas prices. Although justifiably criticized for its constrained scope, the report included some interesting findings.

According to the report, one way of reducing the gas price differential between B.C. and other jurisdictions “would be to supply more product into the B.C. market using the most cost-effective method. The expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline provides such an opportunity.”

Given the NDP’s attempts to stop the project, it’s not surprising they’ve been remarkably quiet about this finding, preferring instead to focus on the report’s more politically convenient aspects.

"In a little over a month, our leverage won’t be half what it is now."

Importantly, the report goes on to point out that, as of today, “the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline does not have a guaranteed allocation of capacity that can be used to supply road fuels to the B.C. market.” It recommends this issue “be explored further to ensure that some of the increase in capacity for product flow through the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is reserved to supply the B.C. gasoline and diesel market.”

That’s the very real opportunity in front of John Horgan. He can reflect the interests of British Columbians and support the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion – and he can tie that support to a guaranteed allocation for refined fuels to B.C., reducing the price difference between us and the rest of the continent.

It’s a chance to rise above partisan politics and do what’s best for B.C. In a little over a month, our leverage won’t be half what it is now.

For the sake of all British Columbians, he shouldn’t let this opportunity pass by.

Caroline Elliott is pursuing her PhD in political science at Simon Fraser University and is a regular political panelist on CBC’s Early Edition. She also runs a consulting firm providing communications and public policy advice to a broad range of clients. Caroline was previously an advisor on BC Hydro’s Site C project, and served as a ministerial aide with the B.C. Government.


  • Maclean Kay and Jordan Bateman debated the winners and losers in the Trans Mountain approval. (The one in June 2019 - you're forgiven if you're confused.)
  • Kris Sims and Franco Terrazzano of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation did a deep dive on just how much money continued opposition to TMX costs.
  • Caroline Elliott's first piece for The Orca delved into last year's Proportional Representation referendum - and a powerful case for keeping our current system. (Which we did, if memory serves.)