Justin Trudeau’s $4.5 billion Trans Mountain pipeline purchase met with a storm of criticism

OTTAWA—The Liberal government’s $ 4.5-billion Trans Mountain pipeline purchase was met with swift criticism Tuesday, as environmental groups and Indigenous leaders vowed to keep protesting the controversial expansion project and opposition politicians slammed the move.

“We are absolutely shocked and appalled that Canada is willingly investing taxpayers’ money in such a highly controversial fossil fuel expansion project,” said Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in an emailed statement. “We will not stand down no matter who buys this ill-fated and exorbitantly priced pipeline.”

A aerial view of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on May 29, 2018. The federal Liberal government is spending $ 4.5 billion to buy Trans Mountain and all of Kinder Morgan Canada's core assets.
A aerial view of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain tank farm is pictured in Burnaby, B.C., is shown on May 29, 2018. The federal Liberal government is spending $ 4.5 billion to buy Trans Mountain and all of Kinder Morgan Canada’s core assets.  (JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

On Parliament Hill, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called the purchase “an historic blunder with taxpayer dollars,” citing a document from the National Energy Board that says Kinder Morgan bought the existing pipeline from its previous owner for $ 550 million in 2007 — a far cry from what the Texas company will get by selling it to Ottawa, she said.

She also accused Trudeau’s government of writing a “blank cheque” for the pipeline’s construction costs, which Kinder Morgan has previously pegged at $ 7.4 billion.

“It seems completely insane,” May said. “I’m quite certain that this will go down as an epic financial, economic boondoggle.”

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the decision leaves taxpayers on the hook for Trudeau’s “failure” to manage the energy file. “Kinder Morgan wasn’t asking for the money. They were asking for certainty and a pathway to get the get the project built,” he said. “The prime minister is forcing Canadian taxpayers to pay for his failure.”

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The Council of Canadians, meanwhile, attacked Ottawa’s purchase as a “Big Oil bailout” that would not remove obstacles to the pipeline expansion. Greenpeace, in its own statement, said Trudeau’s government has “signed up to captain the Titanic of tar sands oil pipelines, putting it on a collision course with its commitments to Indigenous rights and the Paris climate agreement.”

There were voices of support, however. Canada’s Building Trades Unions lauded the “courage and vision” of the government and said Ottawa can expect to sell the pipeline in the future so that taxpayers won’t lose out.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce was also supportive of the move, arguing in a statement that it will allow oil companies to sell Alberta bitumen at higher prices and thus bring economic benefits to the country. At the same time, the chamber said the purchase was only necessary because Canada’s regulatory system is “broken” and that urgent changes are needed to ensure the country can still attract investment.

TORONTO STAR

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