Five things you should know about Morneau’s Trans Mountain buyout
Now that you, as a Canadian taxpayer, are a pipeline owner…
For months, Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan has been hinting their pipeline and oil tanker proposal on the B.C. coast was not worth the risk.
Many of the risks disclosed to investors — from the opposition of a new B.C. government to construction efforts being met with resistance to new legal risks by the First Nations who hold rights and title to the land they want to build through — were looming large in front of them. Responsible for protecting their shareholders, they decided to walk away.
But CEO Steve Kean had one last ace up his sleeve. He issued an ultimatum to the Canadian government, and they took the bait. Now, he’s laughing all the way to the bank with a $4.5 billion public buyout.
Bill Morneau, the negotiator of this deal on behalf of Trudeau’s desperate Liberal government, got brilliantly played by a group of former Enron executives. Now, we’re all on the hook.
That means you, yes you, are a soon-to-be partial owner of a leaky 65-year-old pipeline — and the proponent of a still uncosted oil tanker expansion project. Here are five things you should know about Morneau and Trudeau’s buyout deal:
1. With $4.5 billion, Morneau got played
As the Globe reported, the existing Trans Mountain line system is worth well under $4.5 billion dollars. The federal government was so visibly desperate in their effort to salvage the expansion project, they found themselves in weak bargaining position. So we, the taxpayers, paid a premium for this aging infrastructure.
Kinder Morgan has been earning $200 million a year from the existing pipeline, so it will be decades before this “investment” has been paid off.
2. The uncosted expansion
There’s a reason taxpayers are taking over the expansion, too — because the private sector doesn’t want it.
Remember, the $4.5 billion only pays for the old pipeline. The cost for building a new and bigger one is a whole other story.
Kinder Morgan last estimated the expansion costs at $7.4 billion, but the company hasn’t revised its estimate in over a year because of all the uncertainty. So yes, we can guess it’s quite a bit higher now. Ottawa promises construction will ramp up this summer. Assuming they can’t find a buyer, taxpayers would be on the hook for every penny.
Minister Morneau has so far refused to tell taxpayers how much he’d be willing to spend to build this dead-end oil tanker project.
3. If a private company buys it, we’re still on the hook
Of course, as Morneau keeps repeating, his ideal scenario is to find another buyer to build and operate the pipeline. That’s Ottawa three-part plan to flip a pipeline project: purchase the fixer-upper with taxpayer money, attempt to quash B.C. and First Nations resistance, and then sell at a profit!
But remember, even if the federal government manages to sell this “dog with fleas”, taxpayers are likely to lose out, again. We have Morneau’s indemnity promise to thank for that.
As announced Tuesday, Canadian government is still committed to bailing out any other company that gives up on the Trans Mountain expansion. Courts rule that Trudeau’s government failed to uphold its Constitutional responsibilities to First Nations in their rigged consultation process? No worries! The project’s approval may now be invalid, but the next company can walk away with taxpayer money to compensate them for Trudeau’s unlawful review process.
Minister Morneau also has yet to announce how much taxpayer money he’s offering to indemnify potential buyers.
4. Polluter pays… except now the polluter is the Canadian government
Pipelines spill. The existing Trans Mountain line has spilled 83 times since the NEB made them start keeping track. The latest, albeit small spill literally happened this week.
Under Canada’s new polluter pays legislation, the operators of pipelines like Trans Mountain have to keep $1 billion on hand in case of an accident. And if a major spill occurs, the price tag could be quite a bit higher than that. All of which means, in addition to devastating and lasting effects to our local economy, waterways and health in the event of an oil spill — we’ll also be on the hook as taxpayers for the costs of attempted clean-up.
5. If the Paris Agreement succeeds, markets dry up
The business case for the Trans Mountain expansion has never made sense in a carbon constrained world. This project — for which the Trudeau government is now the proponent — is an economic bet on catastrophic levels of global warming. Kinder Morgan has admitted this.
If the Paris Agreement succeeds, global oil demand starts shrinking, and this expansion has no market. (And if oil production and consumption keep going up, and the Paris Agreement fails… well, we’ll have bigger problems.)
As taxpayers, we should expect our government have more clear headed decision-making. Or, at least to be as smart as multinational oil companies like Shell or big banks like HSBC that have read the signs are backing out of new investments in Alberta’s oil sands.
If Justin Trudeau cared about our environment and economy, he’d be investing in equipping Canada’s fossil fuel workers with the skills they need to transition to sustainable energy jobs. He’d be helping putting hundreds of thousands of people to work in energy efficiency, wind and solar — which create many times more jobs per dollar invested than oil extraction.
Instead, his government is on track to sink untold billions of taxpayer dollars on a pipe dream. He’s not just blurring but breaking the line between oil and state. He’s stepping in to finance reckless oil expansion that prudent business people will not touch.
And he’s doing it all on the dime of taxpayers like you and me — not to mention the future generations of Canadians that will be saddled with the deficit and climate debt Trudeau’s leaving in his wake.