Bill Morneau on Trans Mountain spat: Private sector can't deal with battling governments, but we can
Canada’s finance minister said he views the government’s offer to backstop the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project as insurance against inter-governmental strife.
“What is it that a private-sector company can’t deal with?” Bill Morneau asked in an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Thursday. “They can’t deal with disagreements between governments, but we can.”
Morneau added that the federal government’s offer to Kinder Morgan – the company backing the Trans Mountain expansion – or other investors aims to indemnify the project’s risk of delays or uncertainty caused by “politically-motivated action.”
“That, I think, is something that we’re uniquely capable of dealing with, and we think there’s a way to do it in a commercially-appropriate way,” Morneau said. “So, if the project is economically viable, then we can actually provide [something] sort of like insurance.”
Morneau also pushed back against the notion that the cost of a financial backstop would ultimately be put on Canadian taxpayers, pointing to the overall economic benefit of the Trans Mountain expansion.
“We all need to roll up our sleeves and get to a conclusion that makes sense because we know this is advantageous for the country, for Canadians... It’s not that Canadians are paying for this. We actually think that this creates an advantage for Canadians, not disadvantage,” he said.
Kinder Morgan Canada remained firm to its May 31 deadline for assurances that the project can be built, reiterating Wednesday that the clock is still ticking.
"The time period for reaching a resolution is short and, if we don't reach a resolution by May 31, as we've said, it's hard to conceive of a scenario under which we can proceed," the company’s CEO Steven Kean said Wednesday.
Morneau, however, said Thursday that there’s still time for a resolution.
“That’s what we’re trying to achieve and I’ve got to say – with goodwill on both sides – I’m optimistic we’ll get there,” he said.