On today’s date in 1951, Canada’s House of Commons approved the incorporation of Trans-Canada Pipe Lines Ltd. with the aim of building the country’s first pipeline from Alberta to Québec.
The company was a subsidiary of Canadian Delhi, which Texan oil magnate Clint Murchison developed for natural gas exploration in western Canada, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.
Despite pushback from both the Progressive Conservative Party and Co-operative Commonwealth Federation – but with the support of Liberal trade and commerce minister C.D. Howe – the Liberal government passed a bill to allow its construction.
“The TransCanada Pipeline was completed by October 1958 and remains in service today as TC Energy’s Canadian Mainline,” adds The Canadian Encyclopedia. “When it began operation, it was the longest natural gas pipeline in the world.”
After upgrades in the 1960s, the pipeline (now called the Canadian Mainline) was extended along the Great Lakes in the United States in 1967. Five years later, the company changed its name to TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., and in 1998, it merged with NOVA to create what was then the fourth-largest gas pipeline company on the continent.
After cancelling East Energy – a new system slated to carry about 850,000 barrels of oil daily from Alberta to eastern provinces – and now facing difficulties with its Keystone and Coastal GasLink pipelines, the newly rebranded TC Energy is at the centre of ongoing protests.
In February 2020, protests across the country in support of British Columbia’s Wet’suwet’en First Nation saw intense backlash to the $6.2-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline.
“Mohawks in Ontario and Quebec have erected rail blockades that paralyzed passenger and freight travel on some lines. Other protesters – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – have followed suit, blockading tracks across the country,” reads a report by The Guardian on Feb. 28, 2020.
“Thirty-seven people were arrested in Toronto this week for standing on commuter tracks during evening rush hour, paralyzing the city’s Union Station.”
The pipeline was planned to convey natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to an export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.
Canada’s first major discovery of natural gas was in 1883, when workers attempted to dig a water well but struck gas instead near Medicine Hat, Alta.
Soon after, nearby residents were using the gas to live and work more comfortably in warm, well-lit homes and businesses; however, developing the province’s massive stores of natural gas proved too expensive and unwieldy for the private sector to accomplish.
In 1956, the Canadian government offered to guarantee loans for the pipeline’s construction, paving the way for the first Great Canadian Pipeline Debate. The debate, which contributed to the defeat of the St. Laurent government in the following year, focused on concerns over proper parliamentary procedure, Canada-U.S. relations and the pipeline’s cost.
2008 PIPELINE STAMP
In 2008, Canada Post featured the TransCanada pipeline on a 52-cent stamp (Scott #2267) in commemoration of the 5,000-kilometre pipeline, which carries natural gas from Alberta – through Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario – to Quebec.
The stamp was issued as part of the “Industries: Oil and Gas” series, which includes another stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of James Williams’ discovery of oil in Lambton County, Ont.
Banff artist Tim Nokes designed both stamps.
“For the pipeline stamp, I created an image of a single, anonymous welder to represent the thousands of men and women who worked on the project,” said Nokes. “To add a festive touch, I had the welding sparks transform themselves into bits of confetti.”