May 29, 2018
‘A grand 'Come to Jesus' event’: Reaction to feds buying Trans Mountain for $4.5B
Just two days before Kinder Morgan’s May 31 deadline for reassurances from the federal government that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion could be built, Ottawa announced Tuesday that it will buy the contentious project from the Houston-based energy infrastructure giant for $4.5 billion.
The extraordinary move by the Canadian government to push ahead with the crucial pipeline has drawn strong reactions from across the country.
Here’s a look at how guests on BNN Bloomberg are reacting to the Trudeau government’s decision and how they think this pipeline saga will now play out.
Philip Petursson, chief investment strategist, Manulife Investments
“It seems like it’s a grand Come to Jesus event where they finally realize this is a project that needs to happen. It’s for the benefit of not only the Alberta economy, but the Canadian economy. And if you can’t move these mountains, so to speak, to get this project done, then take it over and do it yourself.”
Aaron Wudrick, federal director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
“This decision represents both a colossal failure of the Trudeau government to enforce the law of the land, and a massive, unnecessary financial burden on Canadian taxpayers. 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.”
Eric Nuttall, senior portfolio manager, Ninepoint Partners
“Today symbolizes the end of Canada being held hostage by environmental terrorists and finally we can have confidence that shovels will be getting into the ground soon and that our oil will be exposed to worldwide prices. I do give Trudeau and his government a lot of credit. I’ve not been a fan in the past, but I see them exercising a tremendous amount of leadership on this decision. This is a really, really good day for Canada.”
John Risley, president, CFFI Ventures
“There’s good and bad news. The good news is that this means, absolutely for sure, we’re going to get the pipeline built and that’s great for Canada. That’s great for the energy sector. On the bad news side, it speaks to how difficult it is to get a major resource-oriented project built in this country today. Clearly, the only way in this particular case was with the public sector stepping in to take over the risks associated with delays, court proceedings and organizations who are anti-everything and that’s too bad.”
Richard Masson, former president, Alberta Petroleum Marketing Commission
“It’s unfortunate we came to this point where a private sector company didn’t feel like they had the proper balance between risk and reward to proceed, so it’s unfortunate we’re here. But given that the situation came to this, I think we needed to do it … I don’t think there were any private sector companies willing to step into Kinder’s shoe and so essentially because it’s such an important project from an overall revenue point of view for industry and government, the federal government was left with little choice but to step in and take this risk on.”
Frank McKenna, deputy chairman of TD Bank and former Canadian ambassador to the U.S.
“We’re currently losing as much as $15 to $30 billion a year of Canadian wealth by virtue of the fact that we don’t have access to markets and this was part of a very complicated deal that would put carbon pricing in place in Alberta in exchange for takeaway access … You can say what you want about B.C. being out of line, but they do have the right to go to court as do other interveners and we can’t tell judges they have to speed up their decision-making. So, we have to take that political risk out and that’s what this announcement has done. It’s taken that risk off the table and allowed the project to proceed.”
Jim Carter, member, Alberta’s Market Access Task Force
“If you look at the major energy projects that we’ve had in this country over many years, they’ve all involved government investment at some point or another. If you think about the original Syncrude project, the feds were involved, the province of Alberta … I think when people reflect on that, they’ll understand the need to do this in this particular case. Historically, investments in pipelines have been pretty good investments. Anyone that’s invested in Enbridge or TransCanada or any of the major pipelines over the last few years has done very well.”
Norman Levine, managing director, Portfolio Management Corp.
“This is to me a tragedy that didn’t have to happen and it’s all the fault of the government and it actually comes right out of the PMO’s office … Trans Mountain could have been cancelled had the other ones [pipelines] gone ahead and the Canadian oil industry would have been just fine, thank you … So, they were stuck with this and it’s blown up in their face, because they thought it was going to be a sure thing and now the taxpayers are a motivated buyer, because the government is a motivated buyer.”
Gwyn Morgan, former CEO, Encana Corp.
“The reality is that the government backed themselves into a tight corner by killing two other pipelines and this is the only one left. And now they’re facing, as my mother used to say, ‘If you lay down a bed of nails, you may have lie in it sometime.’ The reality is the pipeline became more than a pipeline issue. It became a national unity issue, it became a national confidence issue and an investor confidence issue. Now, that’s why the government of Canada really felt they had to do this – in addition to the fact that there’s $15 to $16 billion a year of giveaways to the United States’ oil buyers, because of the discount.”
Steve Williams, president and CEO, Suncor Energy
“What’s key is that this pipeline be built, and operated safely and responsibly. We will do our part to support this happening. We support actions that continue to advance certainty that this pipeline will be built. We recognize there are still many details to work through over the coming months.”