Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is seen underway in Kamloops, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. A new report from the parliamentary budget officer says the federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline is seen underway in Kamloops, B.C., Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. A new report from the parliamentary budget officer says the federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Future value of Trans Mountain pipeline rests on Liberals’ climate plans, PBO says

The increased capacity wouldn’t come on line until the end of 2022

The federal government could end up losing money on the Trans Mountain pipeline if it further tightens its climate policy and decreasing demand for Canadian oil, the parliamentary budget officer says.

The federal government bought the pipeline, and the unfinished work to increase its capacity by twinning it, in August 2018 for $4.4 billion.

The Liberals haven’t been able to find a buyer for the pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast. They are instead paying for its expansion, which the most recent estimate says will cost $12.6 billion.

The increased capacity wouldn’t come on line until the end of 2022.

The budget officer said the pipeline remains profitable based on expected cash flows, estimating the government could make $600 million above its purchase price.

But Yves Giroux warned in his report Tuesday that everything could change based on circumstances both beyond and within the government’s control, including changes to climate policy that would reduce demand for the petroleum products the pipeline moves.

Giroux also provided a scenario for the Liberals’ promise to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, estimating that doing so could lead to a $1.5-billion loss on Trans Mountain.

And that estimate led environmental groups to argue the government should spend less on the pipeline and more on tackling climate change.

“This pipeline is only profitable in a worst-case climate scenario, where the world takes no new action on climate change,” said Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada. “That is not a future that we should be betting over $12 billion of public money on.”

The report Tuesday was an update on the PBO’s report from early 2019 that pegged the cost of the pipeline and planned expansion project at between $3.6 billion and $4.6 billion, meaning the government might have overpaid for the project two years ago.

READ MORE: Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

The Liberals have argued the costs were worth it to save a project that looked doomed when Kinder Morgan and its investors got cold feet in the face of legal opposition and political uncertainty.

Despite a series of legal wins to the pipeline’s construction, and government money going into it, a sale hasn’t happened.

It’s unlikely the Liberals will ever find a buyer because the PBO report adds to arguments that Trans Mountain isn’t economically viable, said NDP finance critic Peter Julian.

He called on the Liberals to shift spending from the pipeline to climate change projects like green energy infrastructure.

“It was a mistake for Mr. Trudeau in 24 hours to come up with ($4.4 billion) and throw that at the company,” he said during a virtual press conference.

“It would be a bigger mistake to … keep pouring money — taxpayers’ money — into this project, even though it is almost in all the scenarios that are realistic, it is going to be a money-loser.”

Giroux’s report last year estimated the government would lose upwards of $2.5 billion if the expansion didn’t go ahead.

In his report Tuesday, Giroux estimated that a one-year delay in getting the expansion online would translate into a $400 million loss. A 10 per cent drop in construction costs would put the profit margin at $1 billion, or $200 million if costs rise.

In a statement, Giroux said the precarity of the outlook lay with federal policy.

“The profitability of the assets is highly contingent on the climate policy stance of the federal government and on the future utilization rate of the pipeline,” he said.

Amara Possian, Canada campaign director for 350.org (named for a “safe” level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) said the PBO report makes clear the government now faces a clear choice.

“Acting on climate change and Trans Mountain don’t mix and we all need to be asking the prime minister what’s more important: saving this pipeline or tackling the climate crisis?”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Climate changeLiberalsTrans Mountain pipeline

Just Posted

The river behind the ball field. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Pulled by the flow: river stirs up childhood memories

Gazette editor makes trek through Port Hardy wilderness to swim in the river

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Alert Bay council has decided to cancel Canada Day celebrations. (Alertbay.ca photo)
Alert Bay council cancels Canada Day celebrations

The decision was made in wake of the mass graves being found at former residential schools

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Most Read