Closed for business

By Elmira Aliakbari and Ashley Stedman

In a stunning turn in an already unprecedented saga, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced this morning that the federal government will buy the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project from Kinder Morgan for $4.5-billion, essentially nationalizing the project.

The agreement, which federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said “will help advance Canada as an energy leader, as a place where good projects get built,” will do anything but. The harsh reality is that the agreement is further evidence that Canada is closed for business when it comes to investment in our energy sector.

The $7.4 billion Kinder Morgan project was approved by the federal government about 18 months ago after a five-year approval process that included environmental assessments and Indigenous consultations.

Despite following the legal and regulatory process to acquire approvals, the project has been essentially blocked by the B.C. government and several court challenges.

The Trudeau government repeatedly promised that the project would be built, yet failed to take concrete and timely action while sending mixed signals regarding its support.

It’s not the first time Trudeau government actions (or inactions) hurt pipeline projects in Canada. For example, the government rejected the previously-approved $7.9 billion Northern Gateway pipeline in 2016 and imposed new regulatory hurdles on TransCanada’s proposed Energy East project, which included consideration of downstream emissions never included in prior assessments.

Consequently, TransCanada deemed the pipeline economically unwise and scuttled the project after these changes.

Clearly, the federal government has failed to address the real issues facing Canada’s energy sector. To make matters worse, it’s now nationalized the Trans Mountain project, setting a troubling precedent.

For these major energy missteps by Ottawa, Canadians will ultimately pay.

Read the full op-ed at fraserinstitute.org.

Elmira Aliakbari is an associate director, and Ashley Stedman a senior policy analyst at the Fraser Institute.


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