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Progressive politics, ideas & culture

September-October 2018

How Canada’s news outlets have covered the Trans Mountain Pipeline controversy this summer

From the national broadcaster to community publications

Amy van den Berg

In Burnaby, B.C., this past July, more than 70 activists and members of First Nations took to the water in boats, canoes, and kayaks to protest in front of the Trans Mountain Terminal. The protesters formed a flotilla to express their upset with the Trans Mountain pipeline extension project, which the federal government announced it would acquire. Photo courtesy of Protect the Inlet.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline saga has been ongoing for years, but tensions peaked this May when Justin Trudeau announced his government’s plans to acquire the project for $4.5 billion. In 2013, energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan proposed building a new pipeline to run parallel to the existing one, built in 1952. The proposal reignited ongoing disputes around environmental ethics, considerations for traditional Indigenous territories, and the economic benefits of the oil industry. Here’s a look at the different ways news outlets across the country have covered the controversy:


The national broadcaster’s reporting on the pipeline’s recent developments has focused on response to events and moves by the federal government. It has played a key role in breaking news to the public, and its quick takes have been largely centred on the fears and arguments of environmentalists and First Nations leaders.

Trans Mountain protesters decry ‘Justin Trudeau memorial pipeline’ in Burnaby, B.C.” | JULY 02, 2018
Pipeline protesters predict number of arrests over Trans Mountain will eclipse War in the Woods” | JULY 16, 2018


The Globe and Mail has largely covered the economic impacts of the pipeline as well as the political sagas that have played out since the Liberals decided to buy out the project. The reporting looks at environmental debates surrounding the expansion, yet these issues are often presented as opposition to the fight for access to land and sea. Another major theme in their coverage is the fear of the pipeline’s demise and the question of what’s next.

Trans Mountain, Trudeau and the B.C.-Alberta feud: A guide to the political saga so far” | APRIL 18, 2018
Ottawa is buying Trans Mountain. What does that mean? A guide” | MAY 29, 2018
Burnaby residents call for pipeline protest camps to be dismantled” | JUNE 17, 2018


The Indigenous news outlet’s coverage has been focused on those protesting the expansion, such as Indigenous people and non-for-profits like Greenpeace. APTN will often refer to protesters as “land” and “water” protectors, usually residents of remote areas who have been left out of the prevailing conversation in mainstream news coverage.

City of Burnaby serves eviction notice to anti-Trans Mountain pipeline activists” | JULY 19, 2018
Anti-pipeline aerial activists hang from Vancouver bridge, block oil tanker” | JULY 4, 2018


Coverage by the B.C.-focused independent online news source has challenged the truth of what Canadians are hearing about the Trans Mountain Pipeline. They’ve published a number of deep-dives on the data and history around the expansion project, focusing on educating readers rather than providing updates.

Trudeau, Notley and Trans Mountain Claims: A Tyee Fact Check” | MARCH 21, 2018
Pipeline Expansion: U.S. Refineries Win, Canadians Lose” | APRIL 19, 2018
Canada’s Dirty $20-Billion Pipeline Bailout” | MAY 29, 2018

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