Editorial – Canadian taxpayers to become the owners of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project – why?

Mac Olsen

State ownership of what is supposed to be a privately invested, privately operated infrastructure project, is not an ideal outcome. But the federal government’s purchase of Kinder Morgan’s assets and its investment in this controversial project, brings the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion closer to reality.

On May 29, just days before Kinder Morgan was set to pull out of the project entirely, the federal government announced that it will spend $4.5 billion to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline and the company’s core assets.

“We believe that this is the best way to protect thousands of well-paying jobs and the safest and most effective way to get our resources to world markets,” said federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau during a news conference in Ottawa that day.

So, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Government have acted, as they believe, not only for Alberta’s economic interests, but for all of Canada.

However, the completion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline should not require funding by the Canadian taxpayer. Events should not have spun out control to the point where the project would become a state-owned entity. Instead, the prime minister allowed the crisis to continue until Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline loomed large.

Then, reacting in desperation, the Trudeau government announced that Canadian taxpayers were going to be on the hook for the completion of the project. Trudeau and the Liberals deserve to be criticized for allowing the crisis to spiral out of control, giving us this outcome.

Aaron Wudrick of the Canadian Taxpayers Federations puts it succinctly. In a CTF news release last week, he said, in part:

“This move sets a terrible precedent and signals to other prospective investors that large projects such as pipelines cannot be built by private industry in Canada. Worst of all, the cost and risk of a $7 billion project that was going to be willingly financed entirely by a private company will now be unnecessarily transferred onto the backs of Canadian taxpayers.”

That’s a good point. Even if the federal government sells off all of what it purchases from Kinder Morgan, will Canadian taxpayers have to absorb a loss when the pipelines returns to the private ownership?

As for Premier Rachel Notley, she was forthcoming in her praise for the federal government on the deal.

“This is a major step forward for all Canadians,” Notley said on Twitter that day. “We have met the deadline. This project has more certainty than ever before. We won’t stop until this job is done!”

She also promises to commit up to $2 billion from the Alberta Government to the project if required, a proposal with which I also disagree. I hope that no money will come from Alberta taxpayers, as they too should not have to make a financial commitment to this project.

I agree that the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is important for jobs and investment. I just disagree with the method used to get us to this point.

As for B.C. Premier John Horgan, I hope he goes down to judicial and political defeat over his opposition to the project – which his province stands to benefit from too.


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