More than two thirds of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose the federal government writing off billions of Trans Mountain debt

Majority of Canadians want oil companies to pay for the project; only 18% say the government is heading in the right direction

Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories/VANCOUVER – More than two thirds, or 68 per cent, of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose the federal government writing off $15-$20 billion of Trans Mountain Corporation’s debt owed back to Canadians, according to a survey released today by Nanos Research. The same survey shows only 18 per cent of respondents say the government is heading in the right direction with the pipeline.

The debt write off is proving more likely after Trans Mountain filed an application with the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) for approval of shipping tolls that will cover less than half the $30.9 billion cost of construction. The only other option is for the oil companies to pay for more of the pipeline’s costs.

To date, Trans Mountain has borrowed more than $16 billion from Canadians to fund the $30.9 billion Trans Mountain Expansion Project. It has also borrowed at least $16 billion from Canadian banks, backed by a federal government loan guarantee. Trans Mountain’s June application before the CER confirmed what several analysts and the Parliamentary Budget  Office (PBO) forewarned: that TMX will lose money, with shipping tolls that cover less than half the cost of construction. 

“The critical question is: who will pay the massive debt incurred by Trans Mountain in building the pipeline?” said Eugene Kung, of West Coast Environmental Law, who commissioned the poll. “Finance Minister Freeland has a choice between taxpayers and oil companies, and Canadians have made their position clear: oil companies should pay for their own infrastructure.

The survey, which went out into the field in early October 2023 as part of Nanos' monthly omnibus poll, also found:

  • Sixty percent of respondents want mostly oil companies to pay for TMX, while three percent said it should mostly be government/taxpayers and 32 percent said it should be a mix of both.
  • On average, respondents said taxpayers should be responsible for subsidizing no more than 16 per cent of Trans Mountain’s total cost (median of 10%).

“The federal government has spent reams of political and financial capital on TMX, but Canadians do not support billions of dollars in additional subsidies to the oil and gas companies. These are the same companies that continue to report massive profits while the average Canadian struggles with the cost of living,” Kung added.

Nanos conducted an RDD dual frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,058 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between October 1st and 4th, 2023 as part of an omnibus survey. Participants were randomly recruited by telephone using live agents and administered a survey online. The results were statistically checked and weighted by age and gender using the latest Census information and the sample is geographically stratified to be representative of Canada. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,058 Canadians is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The research was commissioned by West Coast Environmental Law and was conducted by Nanos Research. 

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For more information, please contact:

Eugene Kung | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law

Nik Nanos | Nanos Research 

Link to full Nanos report and tabulations.