Globe editorial: Ottawa throws your money at its pipeline problem (Globe and Mail – May 30, 2018)

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kept telling Canadians, “We are going to get the pipeline built,” they probably didn’t think that by “we” he meant them. They saw it as more of a royal “we” that referred to his government’s efforts to help Kinder Morgan complete the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on budget.

But no. Ottawa announced Tuesday that it will lend Kinder Morgan money to ensure that construction scheduled for this summer begins on time, and will furthermore buy the pipeline from the Texas company for $4.5-billion. The government expects to become the owner of the existing pipeline by August, and to bear the cost of completing the expansion that has been pegged at more than $7-billion.

In the meantime, Ottawa will look for another company to buy the pipeline, but in all likelihood that will take years. It’s safe to say the Government of Canada will still be in the pipeline business after the general election in 2019.

That means the Canadian taxpayer is financially implicated in the political war between Ottawa and the government of British Columbia, which is nothing anyone ever voted for. Plus, there is a whiff of economic nationalism to the decision, and with that a worry that foreign investors are having second thoughts about Canada.

Kinder Morgan effectively wiped its hands of a potentially lucrative pipeline project because the politics of this not-that-united country was putting its shareholders at risk. Other companies will surely take note.

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