Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is slamming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government for offering a multibillion dollar "bailout" that has resulted in "massive bonuses" to executives at Texas-based energy giant, Kinder Morgan.
Scheer made the comments on Twitter in response to a National Observer report that quoted United States Securities Exchange Commission filings. The news report revealed that two Canadian executives at the pipeline company had each been offered $1.5 million retention bonuses in connection with the Trudeau government's offer to purchase Kinder Morgan's Canadian assets for $4.5 billion.
While the oil pipeline and tanker project has split the country in recent public opinion polls, Trudeau's offer to buy the Kinder Morgan assets appears to have united both the right and left-leaning opposition parties in Ottawa. Scheer has blamed Trudeau for failing to resolve political uncertainty that led Kinder Morgan to threaten to abandon its expansion project.
While the oil pipeline and tanker project has split the country in recent public opinion polls, the Trudeau government's offer to buy the Kinder Morgan assets appears to have united both the right and left-leaning opposition in Ottawa. #cdnpoli
"Trudeau’s failure means billions of tax dollars paid to Kinder Morgan to leave Canada," Scheer wrote on Saturday. "Now we learn the bailout included massive bonuses to executives. Fewer opportunities for Canadians, but more taxpayer funded bonuses for millionaires."
Trudeau’s failure means billions of tax dollars paid to Kinder Morgan to leave Canada. Now we learn the bailout included massive bonuses to executives. Fewer opportunities for Canadians, but more taxpayer funded bonuses for millionaires. https://t.co/An8ZHuwFZ9— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) June 2, 2018
'We're going to get it back to the private sector,' Morneau said
Trudeau has blamed the Conservative government, led by former prime minister Stephen Harper, for causing the public to lose confidence in federal approvals of major projects after it dramatically changed Canada's environmental laws in 2012 to reduce federal oversight of industry.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the government offered to buy the assets since it believed that this was the only way to complete plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline system. The Trudeau government approved the project in November 2016, arguing that it would be part of an overall climate change strategy by generating revenues to fund a transition to a low carbon economy. The government said the project would be commercially viable since it would ensure that Canadian oilsands producers — which are operating in the world's third largest reserve of crude oil after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela — have new markets in Asia to sell their product.
Kinder Morgan had said it believed the project was too "risky" for it to proceed due to political opposition in B.C., Trudeau said earlier this week. The company also told National Observer on Saturday that the bonuses were "consistent with industry practice for a project and transaction of this size."
Morneau said the government eventually planned to sell the assets back to the private sector, as soon as it finds a new buyer. He explained that once the project is completed, the risks of failure would be lower, making it a more attractive investment.
"We want to de-risk the project so that we can deal with the national interest and then move it back to the private sector in a way that’s appropriate for the long-term," Morneau said in an interview with Evan Solomon from CTV's Question Period that was aired on Sunday morning. "One way or another, we’re going to get it back into the private sector. One way or another, we’re going to get it done."
Solomon didn't ask Morneau directly about the bonuses offered to executives, and the finance minister's office has declined to say whether he knew about these bonuses prior to the federal cabinet's decision to approve the offer to buy the Kinder Morgan assets.
'Our money paying for this bonus,' said Nathan Cullen
Aside from Scheer, NDP MP Nathan Cullen also questioned why taxpayers were being asked to foot the bill for the bonuses.
"The day before Trudeau bailed out Kinder Morgan the two top executives were promised a $1.5 million bonus," Cullen, who represents the northwest B.C. riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley in Parliament, wrote on Twitter on June 1. "From you, me and every single Canadian. Yeah that’s our money paying for this bonus."
The Green Party also weighed in. "What a deal!" said Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May in her own tweet, that appeared to have a hint of sarcasm.
The day before Trudeau bailed out Kinder Morgan the two top executives were promised a $1.5 million bonus.— Nathan Cullen (@nathancullen) June 2, 2018
From you, me and every single Canadian. Yeah that’s our money paying for this bonus. https://t.co/APZ3wDi8zL
What a deal! Kinder Morgan execs Ian Anderson and David Safari offered $1.5 million bonuses under Trudeau bailout | https://t.co/8Gt8FNxcI9— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) June 2, 2018
'Yes I am a bit angry'
Morneau, who was in the resort town of Whistler, B.C. on Saturday for meetings with his G7 counterparts, received a boisterous greeting from local opponents to the Kinder Morgan project.
“We are going to pay for this for generations to come,” said Whistler resident Myra Graham, among dozens of Kinder Morgan opponents who gathered to send Morneau a message about his support for the Trans Mountain project.
“Yes I am a bit angry."
She also said that many media outlets are failing to tell the story about rising opposition to government support for fossil fuels.
“We’ve got to make noise, we’ve got to come out and most importantly we have to start doing some civil disobedience to get this message through," she said.
Another resident who helped organize the gathering said she was at a loss for words when she read about the bonuses offered to executives.
“Not only did they walk away without building anything, they’re now being rewarded," said Pina Belperio. "They’re laughing all the way to the bank and they must think the government in Canada is a big joke as well if that’s the kind of handouts they’re giving out. It’s disgusting.”
Morneau declined an interview request with National Observer.
'That is the man that struck the deal'
The federal government plans to expand the capacity of the 65 year old pipeline system from 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd, by building its twin to run from the Alberta oilsands to B.C.'s coast, where it can be shipped globally. The company has estimated that the expansion project will cost $7.4 billion dollars.
B.C. is fiercely opposed to the plan, which is facing numerous legal challenges in court, including a judicial review at the Federal Court of Appeal, led by six First Nations, the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, and two environmental organizations.
Graham and Belperio remained outside of the conference centre used to host Morneau's G7 meeting Saturday morning for about three hours, chanting, ringing cowbells and banging pots and pans. As Morneau exited the conference centre in his chauffeured car, driving across the street to his hotel, some of them shouted at the vehicle and attempted to block it in its path.
"Morneau is here. This is the man that struck the deal. It’s outrageous," said Burnaby resident Maurie Jackson, who drove two hours to Whistler to protest Morneau's pipeline deal. "We’ve got to work from the top down, and he’s the person that needs to hear this."
Rick Reid and Ash Conrad, two retired entrepreneurs, were also in Whistler to protest.
"I’ve been self-employed my whole life. I’m not against business, I just want it to be done responsibly," Reid said. "The Government of Canada is not conducting their business responsibly."
Protest on Burnaby Mountain
A crowd of protesters also descended on Burnaby Mountain in the metro Vancouver area, with over a 100 estimated participants gathered. Protesters listened to speeches, sang songs, and "re-branded" the Kinder Morgan Burnaby tank farm by pasting 'sold' posters over Kinder Morgan's signage, along with contact information for the prime minister's office.
"Here on Coast Salish land, this resistance is getting bigger and stronger," Cedar Parker George, a Tsleil-Waututh Nation member and youth leader, said to the rally. "The people are standing up. This is more than a pipeline issue. This is an issue of how the Canadian government treats First Nations and local communities.”
Unlike the frequent arrests that take place as the focal point of Burnaby's Saturday morning rallies, this week saw no arrests. In light of the B.C. Crown prosecution service declaration that they would seek seven days jail time for anyone arrested after May 28th, organizers advised protesters not to risk arrest.
Kinder Morgan opponents have also made plans to stage protests at the riding offices of their local Liberal MPs, across Canada on Monday, to voice their opposition to the new $4.5 billion deal.
with files from Mike De Souza