By TIM KALINOWSKI on January 22, 2021.
Opposition Finance Critic and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips said Premier Jason Kenney made a risky bet on the Keystone XL pipeline that left Alberta taxpayers over-exposed, and now on the hook for billions of dollars after on his first day in office President Joe Biden, as promised throughout the last year of his election campaign, rescinded permission for the pipeline to cross the border granted under the previous administration.
“What we know now is Mr. Kenney gambled with $1.5 billion of our money,” Phillips says.
“He placed a bet with our money on a Trump White House, and he lost that bet. Now, the only question for Albertans is whether he gambled away $1.5 billion? Or more? The rest of the deal for TTC was in loan guarantees, and it is for the project. So if they cannot pay back any of their other loans on this project then we are on the hook for them to the tune of 100 per cent – or at least that is what we think. We don’t exactly know. And Albertans deserve to know just how reckless Mr. Kenney was with our money.”
Phillips says the former NDP government under Rachel Notley had also supported the Keystone XL pipeline, and had extended guarantees to the pipeline’s Canadian partner, TTC Energy, (now TC Energy), to help encourage its completion, but with the caveat those guarantees would not kick in until after the pipeline was operational in order to protect taxpayers. It appears Mr. Kenney took out no such protections, she says, despite knowing it was a risky investment given the uncertain political climate in the United States. Kenney, she states, has no one to blame but himself, and calls the premier’s calls for retaliation against the United States “stupid.”
“Starting or even threatening any kind of trade war with the United States would put millions of jobs at risk in Canada,” she states, “and specifically (thousands of jobs) in Alberta. It is not unlike a housecat who takes a swat at a lion.
” The hubris, in the first instance, someone may look on that, and say, ‘I admire your pluck.’ But it is not likely to end well (for the cat).”
She rejects any equivalency Kenney has tried to draw between tariffs of the Trump era the Canadian government retaliated against, and this loss of billions of dollars on a private, unprotected, investment deal with a corporation built on a high level of uncertainty and risk.
“There was no one forcing him to go into a very bad deal,” she states, “and give away billions of dollars to this company. He could have stewarded our money with more care and concern, and he chose not to do that. (Now) he is trying to make a national unity conversation out of this â€¦ Look. Mr. Trudeau did not force Mr. Kenney to enter into a bad deal and give away 1.5 billion of our dollars; no one forced him to do that.”
Lethbridge East UCP MLA Nathan Neudorf says he will not comment or speculate on the wisdom of imposing punitive tariffs on the U.S. in this instance, but he says there is risk inherent in any decision a government makes to try to do better by its people.
“Every government seeks to do the best it can for its people, and you make decisions with the information you have at the time,” he says. “With every element there is some risk. The former (NDP) government took a risk on oil by rail, and we took a risk on a pipeline. We had the previous president (Trump) say yes, and the one before that (Obama) say no. And now this one says no, and we still have our work cut out for us. I am not willing to give up on it yet, but we definitely have our work cut out for us.”
Neudorf says the decision to cancel Keystone highlights the importance of the advocacy work he will be part of when the Council of State Governments for the West and Midwest meet later this summer.
“Those conversations will have even a higher priority than they did before because obviously we are talking about a lot of investment from the province and the people of Alberta, as well as our future in terms of helping our energy sector to get back on its feet,” he says.
Neudorf acknowledges President Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone pipeline does not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been watching the elections south of the border over the last year.
“It was a disappointment, for sure, but I don’t know we were entirely surprised,” he admits. “President Biden made no secret about his plan that way, but we are definitely disappointed.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter