May 29, 2018
Brad Wall: Feds had their 'first and last resorts confused' on Trans Mountain
Brad Wall on Trans Mountain purchase: No reason to treat tax payers like venture capitalists
While Brad Wall is happy the federal government stepped in to ensure the Trans Mountain extension’s construction, he doesn’t believe the Liberals needed to buy it.
“They might have been getting their first and their last resorts confused,” the former Saskatchewan premier told BNN Bloomberg on Tuesday. “Though it is an unequivocal statement of support to getting oil to tidewater and for the pipeline. I’m not sure it should be the last resort, that there weren’t other options or aren’t other options available to the federal government.”
Wall joined BNN Bloomberg hours after the federal government committed $4.5B to purchase all of Trans Mountain from Kinder Morgan Canada. The pipeline's expansion had been facing a May 31 deadline – imposed by Kinder Morgan – to solve the impasse between Alberta and British Columbia hampering the project’s progress.
“It’s important to give credit where it’s due. We’ve been waiting to see from this federal government an unequivocal signaling that they support and prioritize the access to tidewater for Western Canadian oil, so we can start getting a better price for it for Canadians who own the resource.”
However, Wall told BNN Bloomberg that the feds would have had other options at its disposal, had it jumped into the fray sooner.
“Had the federal government, at the first sign of B.C. intransigence – which was months ago now – had they gone to the Supreme Court of Canada for a reference to assert federal jurisdiction, the government wouldn’t have to buy a pipeline and use taxpayers’ money to do it.”
Now, Wall said, the government takes on the risk of completing the project itself, which puts taxpayers in a precarious position.
“Governments do a lot of things right, but running businesses is probably not near the top of the list,” Wall said.
“There’s billions of dollars risked here,” he added. “That’s what happens when governments, of all stripes, use the taxpayers as venture capitalists.”
Wall now serves as a special advisor for Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, which represented Kinder Morgan in its initial National Energy Board application to expand Trans Mountain.
He expressed concern for the precedent this move could set for future projects of national importance.
“Credit the federal process which, in this case, was elongated but it resulted in approval for the pipeline,” Wall said. “And, yet, in this country, here we are now having to nationalize it to the tune of billions of dollars. And, I worry about the chill that puts on our investment climate in terms of other large projects coming forward.”