Former head of the National Energy Board remembers a time when the province couldn’t wait for the pipeline to be built
Back in 1951, Canada was on a roll. The Saint Lawrence Seaway was in the planning stages. Alcan, by invitation from the government of B.C., was working on the world’s biggest aluminum smelter at Kitimat.
The Trans-Canada Highway was under construction. And the Alberta oil industry, reborn by the 1947 Leduc discovery, was booming. Already Ontario refineries were receiving feedstock from the West by pipeline and lake tanker.
On the back of this wealth-creating resource boom, incomes were rising, reflected in the fact that the average lunch-pail carrier could look forward to buying one of those neat little three-bedroom CMHC bungalows that were springing up across the land. And in Ottawa, the Liberals, with a reputation for getting things done and quickly, were in charge.
No surprise then when the federal regulator got applications from five companies to build a pipeline from Edmonton to the Lower Mainland of B.C., where existing oil supplies were imported by tanker from California and South America.
The matter went to hearing in Ottawa in 1951. B.C. and Alberta, being best buddies, both sent legal heavyweights to support the building of a pipeline by the Trans Mountain company, one of the five applicants. In fact, a statement on behalf of B.C.’s premier and the provincial B.C. government said that “the Province of British Columbia is desirous that no time be lost in establishing the pipe line.”