Understanding the RCMP as a federal fossil fuel subsidy for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project
Photo: The RCMP arrested a member of the We, the Secwépemc Unity Camp at a Trans Mountain pipeline construction site in Kamloops on October 15, 2020.
Two years ago, the Environmental Defence report PAYING POLLUTERS highlighted: “A particularly egregious form of fossil fuel subsidy are investments made into policing Indigenous land defenders opposing fossil fuel infrastructure.”
Earlier this year, the CBC reported that the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) had spent $3.5 million on policing related to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project between April 1, 2017, and July 31, 2022.
Now, the National Observer reports: “The federal government is once again putting taxpayer dollars on the line to prop up the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX).”
That article adds: “This week it came to light that the federal government approved two loan guarantees (one on March 24 and one on May 2) backing the additional $3 billion Canada’s biggest big banks recently loaned the Crown corporation.”
Politico further explains: “The loan guarantees are administered under the Canada Account at Export Development Canada, a federal Crown corporation. …Loan guarantees are considered subsidies by the World Trade Organization.”
After the price tag to construct the pipeline had surged from the original estimate of $7.4 billion to $21.4 billion, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland promised in February 2022 that “there will be no additional public money invested in TMC.”
Since then, at least $20,337.00 has been spent on RCMP C-IRG policing in relation to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
While a proportionally a small amount of funds, millions more have been budgeted to the RCMP C-IRG by the British Columbia government in anticipation of continued resistance against extractivist projects in the province.
In March of this year, MLA Adam Olsen questioned the provincial Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth about a $36 million allocation to the RCMP C-IRG. Farnworth replied: “It is based on an average that we have spent in this province over the last number of years in terms of dealing with the enforcement of court ordered injunctions.”
Farnworth added in his response: “We have to pay for the costs of the policing that takes place in the course of the enforcement of these injunctions. We budget for it based on the amount of money that has been spent on an annual basis over the last number of years. That is our best estimate. In some cases, it may cost more. In some cases, it may cost less. If it costs less, that money can go somewhere else.”
The chart below by the CBC shows that over the past three years (2020 to July 2022), the RCMP C-IRG spent $35.36 million on enforcement actions for the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines and against logging protests at Fairy Creek.
(While more than half the province’s estimate was likely based on the $18.7 million spent at Fairy Creek, just this week the province announced that it would defer logging of old-growth forests in this area for two more years, until February 1, 2025.)
Provinces and territories pay 70 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s operations in their jurisdictions, while the Canadian government pays the remaining 30 per cent.
It needs to be clarified if the Canadian government has also budgeted in some way 30 percent (about $15 million) beyond the $36 million allocated by the provincial government for the RCMP C-IRG. If so, that may represent an additional budgeted subsidy for the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
We have written Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino about this. We will post an update when we receive a response.
We continue to follow this with concern.