POLITICS
05/29/2018 17:14 EDT | Updated 05/29/2018 17:14 EDT

Morneau Takes Dig At Scheer’s Business Experience During Trans Mountain Tiff

"The member opposite might not understand what we're talking about."

Justin Tang/CP
Minister of Finance Bill Morneau rises in the House of Commons on May 29, 2018.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau drew the ire of Conservatives Tuesday by questioning if Tory Leader Andrew Scheer has the business chops to understand the government's $4.5-billion plan to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and all of Kinder Morgan Canada's core assets.

Morneau faced off against Scheer in question period hours after the minister unveiled the pricey deal to salvage the British Columbia pipeline expansion project. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was not in the House of Commons to answer questions on the move.

Scheer said the prime minister was cutting a cheque with taxpayers' money for "shareholders in a Texas-based company," while at the same time claiming he wants to attract investment in Canada. Scheer asked how much of the $4.5 billion will be invested back in Canada.

"With no business experience, I understand the member opposite might not understand what we're talking about," Morneau shot back before arguing that the Kinder Morgan assets will create long-term value for Canadians.

But Morneau's personal dig spurred outbursts from the Conservative benches. After House Speaker Geoff Regan asked for cooler heads to prevail, a Tory MP told him to "calm down daddy's boy."

The remark, which drew applause from Conservatives, was an apparent dig at how the finance minister's former company, human resources firm Morneau Shepell, was founded by his father.

Scheer, who turned 39 this month, has been an MP since the age of 25. Prior to winning a seat in 2004, he worked as an insurance broker in Regina.

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The swipe at Scheer's business cred was not the only time things got personal in question period.

Scheer kicked things off by calling it an "extremely sad day for Canadian taxpayers" who are being forced to pay for what he called the prime minister's failure. The Tory leader asked for a guarantee that the costs of the Liberal plan will not balloon beyond $4.5 billion.

"The sheer audacity of the member opposite," Morneau began before being cut off. MPs are not allowed to refer to their colleagues by name in the House of Commons, even indirectly.

When the finance minister rose again, he said the previous Tory government was not able to get a "pipeline to market," which is not correct. Two new pipelines were built to the United States under former prime minister Stephen Harper: TransCanada's Keystone pipeline to Nebraska (not to be confused with Keystone XL), and Enbridge's Alberta Clipper to Wisconsin.

Tories also like to credit expansions of two existing pipelines as new projects approved under Harper, allowing Conservatives to boast they got four pipelines built.

None of those pipelines went "to tidewater," though the two key words to listen for as Liberals and Tories squabble over these types of projects.

Still, Scheer said Conservatives were able to get pipelines built without relying on taxpayers' cash.

"Why is it that every time elements of our energy sector get nationalized is when there is a Trudeau in the Prime Minister's Office?" he bellowed, a swipe at former prime minister Pierre Trudeau's National Energy Program.

The Speaker again told the House to avoid referring to current members by name.

"Let's evaluate what the member opposite just said. In the decade before 2015, not one pipeline was built to tidewater. We know this is a fact," the finance minister shot back.

The Trans Mountain pipeline is in the national interest, Morneau said, and will create jobs in Alberta, B.C. and across the country.

Also: Singh rips Trans Mountain deal

New Democrats, who unlike Conservatives oppose the pipeline, also hammered away at the Liberals for sinking public money into the project.

Veteran B.C. NDP MP Nathan Cullen suggested Ottawa was prioritizing a pipeline over safe drinking water for Indigenous children on reserves.

"We have to ask ourselves what kind of priorities these Liberals actually have," Cullens said. "When a Texas oil company shows up and needs a bail-out, these Liberals cannot find a shovel big enough to pitch in."

With earlier files