I was frustrated to read that the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) is requiring Transmountain (TMX) to address social impacts, especially related to worker accommodations in the North Thompson region. This when the workers outside the work camp will have fallen from a peak of around 1400 to 300 next month and 70 in October 2023. How ridiculous to seek compliance with the Social Economic Monitoring Plan now!

I appreciate how Transmountain has provided a lot of benefits to our small community, especially in light of the lockdowns during the pandemic and the benefits continue to trickle in.

I was one of many on the Valemount Housing Committee who raised concerns back in 2020 when the number of workers outside the camp and in the community kept increasing. We felt that if the impact on affordable housing and services is mitigated, then permanent residents won’t be faced with the lack of availability or skyrocketing rents or reduced services. 

I want to acknowledge, that it is hard for all levels of government, many local businesses and individuals to reflect and speak up about local impacts when there’s been a lot of benefits from the pipeline through new well-paying jobs, revenue from rents, housing sales, contributions to municipal infrastructure, clubs and through volunteering.

However, if Transmountain had been transparent about increasing workers and been held accountable to the numbers presented to get the Temporary Use Permit for the work camp in November 2019, we wouldn’t have had some families move away for lack of affordable housing or faced with empty grocery shelves or see businesses reduce hours due to a staffing shortage.

I received an email from TMX’s Public Affairs and Community Specialist on July 20 (last week) to complete a community survey before July 21 about TMX’s impacts. Honestly, the survey read more like a landlord-tenant match-making undertaking. Soliciting public input three-and-a-half years too late feels so disrespectful. Why didn’t TMX feel they should seek community input on social impacts or do more to mitigate it until CER ruled that it should? 

The likely reason that CER is even asking TMX to comply with its Social Impact Monitoring Plan now is because three of us on the former housing committee spoke up at the Regional District public hearing in December 2022 to renew the Temporary Use Permit for the work camp. When we saw that the permit was extended without holding TMX accountable to negative impacts, two of us forwarded our concerns to the Canada Energy Regulator.

People in positions of power need to be able to speak to impacts even if there are benefits to the community from the pipeline expansion. It shouldn’t be up to a few vocal citizens to bring community issues to the attention of regulators, and those monitoring impacts.


Rashmi Narayan