Canada is willing to write Kinder Morgan — or whoever else steps up to the plate — a cheque to ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion gets built, Finance Minister Bill Morneau says.
Morneau said Wednesday his government is willing to compensate the pipeline’s backers against any financial loss due to British Columbia’s attempts to obstruct the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“The indemnification would allow Kinder Morgan to finish what they started, what they received federal and B.C. approval to do,” he said Wednesday morning, during a news conference that laid out the broad strokes about what his government is willing to do to help the project go ahead.
Morneau’s comments come just hours before Kinder Morgan Canada’s stakeholder plan to meet in Calgary, and offers an incentive just weeks before the company’s potential drop-dead date. Kinder Morgan has threatened to abandon the project if a clear path forward isn’t reached by May 31.
“As a government we need to ensure that the rule of law is respected and that investors have the certainty needed to complete the Trans Mountain expansion project because it’s in the national interest to do so,” he said.
Morneau said that if Kinder Morgan bails on the project, the government would reimburse any other investor that would like to take the project on against financial loss as long as the support is “sound and fair and beneficial for Canadians.”
Morneau wouldn’t say if there was a cap on how much the government was willing to indemnify the pipeline’s backer.
“This is an exceptional situation,” he told reporters.
Wednesday’s news conference was the first detailed update on the government’s efforts to save the controversial pipeline expansion since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his economic lieutenant to work with Kinder Morgan to find a path forward.
‘A lot to lose’
It was announced late Tuesday night as Morneau consulted with senior officials in the Alberta government. Morneau also spoke with Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean by phone to tell him what he was would be saying.
A senior Alberta government official told CBC News late Tuesday that “Kinder Morgan is not making this easy.”
The official, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity, said there is “a lot to lose right now.”
Last month Kinder Morgan stopped all non-essential spending on its $7.4-billion project after a months-long standoff between the British Columbia and Alberta governments. B.C. has been working to block the pipeline for environmental reasons over Alberta’s objections.
The expansion would add a second pipeline along Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline route to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast for export on tankers.
Shots at Horgan
Morneau placed the bulk of blame for the delay at the feet of British Columbia Premier John Horgan calling his opposition “politically motivated.”
“Premier Horgan’s stated intentions are to do whatever it takes to stop the project, which is unconstitutional in its very purpose. These are challenges that frankly put the livelihood of thousands of Canadians and their families at risk.”
Morneau’s update comes as the May 31 deadline draws closer — and less than 24 hours after the prime minister gave an evasive answer on the state of talks during a visit to Calgary on Tuesday.
“We continue to work very, very hard, both visibly and behind the scenes,” Trudeau said to reporters.
“When we have something to announce, you guys will be the first to know.”