OTTAWA — Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says the Liberals have "just lost every seat in B.C." after the government announced Tuesday that it will buy Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
The government's decision to step in and build the pipeline is an act of "political desperation," the Saanich—Gulf Islands MP told reporters on Parliament Hill.
May claimed the deal to be politically motivated to help Alberta Premier Rachel Notley beat United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in the province's election next year.
She explained Kinder Morgan pulled off a "brilliant ploy" in taking its own project hostage and threatening it "would be shot on May 31st unless there was a guarantee" they could finish construction.
"This project was never in Canada's national interest," she said.
Watch: May Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Deal Is 'Completely Insane'
The company suspended all non-essential work related to the project last month. Kinder Morgan threatened to walk away unless it got federal certainty that it can build through British Columbia, despite a court challenge raised from that province's NDP government.
"Instead we've bought the pipeline. And it's absolutely stunning," said May.
She explained that new ownership does nothing to increase the likelihood of the project proceeding.
"This situation has created a public policy solution that's worse than the problem that they faced in the beginning."
It's now the government that has to pass the National Energy Board's 157 conditions and over a dozen court challenges before the project can be built, May said.
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Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced earlier that the federal government will buy the existing 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline, and Kinder Morgan's core assets related to its 980-kilometre expansion, for $4.5 billion.
That price tag for is not inclusive of construction costs, indemnity insurance, or legal fees related to ongoing court challenges against the project. The agreement is subject to the approval of Kinder Morgan shareholders and is expected to close in August, the finance minister said.
According to the government, Kinder Morgan will help with efforts to find another private sector buyer who will take on the project. If that happens, taxpayers are off the hook for the multi-billion dollar bill.
In the meantime Crown corporation will be set up to run its existing operations.
Make no mistake, this is an investment in Canada's future.Finance Minister Bill Morneau
"We believe that this is the best way to protect thousands of good, well-paying jobs and the safest and most effective way to get our natural resources to world markets," Morneau explained.
"Make no mistake, this is an investment in Canada's future."
The pipeline is a way of getting Canadian oil resources safely to new markets and for "a fair price," he said.
Morneau calls decision the 'right thing to do'
In question period, debate turned a bit ugly after Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer questioned how the government writing a $4.5-billion cheque to a Texas-based company will attract energy sector investors to Canada.
Morneau discredited Scheer on the basis that he has "no business experience." He called the purchase a $4.5-billion investment in Kinder Morgan assets that will generate value in the long run.
The finance minister called it is the "right thing to do for our country"
The project has faced tremendous pushback and delays from environmental and Indigenous groups — mostly centred in B.C. — concerned about the impact an oil spill could have on the west coast.
Last month, the B.C. NDP government filed a reference case with the Court of Appeal to check if it can pass legislation to ask companies to file permits for any project that proposes to increase the transport of bitumen across the province.
B.C. Premier John Horgan told reporters in Victoria hours after the buyout announcement that the federal government has still yet to offer a fulsome explanation for why the project is in the national interest.
He explained B.C. shoulders most of the environmental risk if oil transport to overseas markets goes awry.
"I do believe now that the federal government is totally accountable, not just for regulation and approval of a pipeline, but they are now responsible from wellhead to tidewater and beyond," Horgan said.
But despite being an apparent thorn in the government's side for acting on his election promise to use "every tool in its toolbox" to stop the pipeline project, Horgan maintained he and Trudeau enjoy an overall "positive" relationship.
'We've been able to do a whole range of things with respect to infrastructure, with respect to child care, and housing. And I expect to continue to do that," he said.
"On this issue, we disagree."