If Kinder Morgan bails, feds would back new Trans Mountain investors: Morneau

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OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau says if Kinder Morgan wants to abandon plans to build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, there are plenty of other investors out there willing to take up the cause.

And Morneau says the federal Liberal government is willing to “provide indemnity” to those investors to ensure the controversial Alberta-B.C. project is able to proceed.

Amid mounting opposition from the B.C. government, environmental groups and protesters, not to mention skittish investors, Kinder Morgan halted all non-essential spending on its $7.4-billion plan to double an existing pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., and gave Ottawa until the end of May to broker some calm.

Morneau says investors need certainty in order to back a project that the government has repeatedly insisted is in the national interest.

The finance minister had been engaged in intensive talks with Kinder Morgan officials up until Tuesday, but the two sides have yet to declare any common ground on the amount of federal money involved.

Today’s hastily called news conference comes on the same day as the company’s annual meeting in Calgary.

Morneau’s talks with Kinder Morgan had their genesis a month ago, when Trudeau promised to deploy both financial and legislative tools to ensure the disputed expansion is able to proceed.

During a remarkable eight-hour stopover in the national capital, an unscheduled break from a busy overseas travel itinerary, Trudeau convened a summit in Ottawa with B.C.’s John Horgan, who has staked his government’s survival on opposing the pipeline, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose province’s economic health depends on it.

Trudeau instructed Morneau to sit down with Kinder Morgan to find a financial solution that would soothe their investors. He also promised legislation that would reaffirm Ottawa’s authority to press ahead with a development deemed to be in Canada’s national interest.

The Liberal government position is that it approved the project in 2016 after a rejigged environmental assessment and Indigenous consultation process, and in concert with the its climate change and oceans protection plan. Approval came in consultation with the previous B.C. Liberal government, which gave its consent to the project after its own conditions were met.

Horgan’s election last year changed that. His minority government exists at the pleasure of the Green party, and on condition of his continued opposition to the project.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. The previous version suggested the Kinder Morgan annual meeting is tomorrow instead of today.

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