Stacks from the Petro-Canada Refinery rise above the Enbridge Oil Tank Farm in Sherwood Park, Ab.Colleen De Neve / Calgary Herald, file


There will be no dramatic cleaning out of Enbridge or TransCanada’s Calgary corporate headquarters, no fleet of moving vans heading down the American I-25 highway in a near straight line from Calgary through Denver to Houston.

But until Canadian governments realize wealth creation is as important as the environment,  gender imbalance and social justice, Alberta’s major pipeline building companies will slip-slide away to the U.S.

It won’t be dramatic. It never is. Corporations don’t want bad-news headlines.

But Enbridge and TransCanada build pipelines.

Major pipelines are not being built in Canada.

Pipelines are being built in the U.S.

Funny thing about doing business.  You go where the work is.

Both TransCanada and Enbridge are going where the work is, via major acquisitions.

In 2016, TransCanada bought the Houston-based Columbia Pipeline Group for $13 billion – greatly increasing its American operations. With the acquisition, nearly half its 7,200 employees now work in the U.S.

Enbridge is bigger than TransCanada. A year ago, it near doubled in size with the $37 billion acquisition of another Houston oil/gas pipelines company, Spectra Energy Partners. 

With the purchase, Enbridge’s workforce has jumped to 13,400 employers – 5,700 of them in the U.S.

Right now, the U.S. is attractive for pipeline companies and business in general. The Trump administration set out to bring American companies back to the U.S., to encourage all kinds of business to locate in the U.S.  It appears to be succeeding. Corporate taxes have been lowered. 

Last week in this column Hi-Kalibre Equipment President Patrick Rabby argued that even with the cheap Canadian dollar, the costs of doing (oil and gas) business in the U.S. are significantly lower than in Alberta.

Today, both TransCanada and Enbridge are nearly as big in the U.S. as they are in Canada.

They will grow in the country that is providing most of their business, and in the country that treats them the best!  Where do you think they’ll be hiring most of their next generation of employees – everybody except your field staff? Enbridge’s main presence in Edmonton is the company’s pipeline monitoring centre. Hopefully it stays.

In this scenario, Enbridge and TransCanada quietly slip into a holding position in Canada, but keep growing in the U.S. 

A few years from now, Calgary does a nose count and realizes TransCanada/Columbia has 2,000 employees in Calgary and 7,000 in Houston.   Enbridge/Spectra will have 3,000 in Calgary, and 11,000 in the U.S.  Meanwhile, TransCanada/Columbia announces a new name, minus any mention of “Canada”.

Why just pipeline companies in this scenario?

Because their business is drying up in Canada.

Other big Western Canadian oil companies – Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources, Imperial Oil, Husky Energy – do most of their business in Canada, being primarily oil-sand operations. It still makes bottom-line sense to be headquartered close to their main assets.  

But  smaller energy-based manufacturing companies in and around Edmonton are weighing up the long-term benefits of moving to the more business/ energy-industry friendly U.S. versus the short-term disruption and pulling up of roots here in Canada.

Business is drying up, because of Canadian governments cannot be trusted.

The hostility of the B.C. provincial government is killing the Kinder-Morgan pipeline expansion: The Energy East pipeline project died from deliberate over-regulation imposed by Ottawa, along with  opposition from Quebec municipalities.

Never knowing where the next eco-protest will come from, pipeline companies fear that governments will not enforce previously agreed-upon rules.

While Alberta is pro-pipelines, this government has raised corporate and high-end personal income taxes, pursues a costly climate-change agenda that causes industry hardship.

Enbridge and TransCanada have teams of accountants and analysts that take all these factors into consideration when deciding where to grow.

In Ottawa, the overwhelming impression is of a prime minister only interested in human rights, gender equality, climate change and indigenous justice: A prime minister who doesn’t understand, nor cares to understand, that only by supporting business can the wealth be created to be taxed to finance such noble causes.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the opposite is happening. The American federal government is encouraging business growth through lower taxes and less-onerous environmental regulation.

“Yes, it is a great country,” RBC bank president Dave McKay was said in an interview with the Canadian Press news agency, regarding the flight of investment capital from Canada. “It’s an inclusive country, it’s a diverse country, it’s got great people assets. But if we don’t keep the capital here, we can’t keep the people here.”