Bloc Québécois MP Monique Pauzé blasted the federal government in question period after a report forecasted roughly $17 billion of Trans Mountain’s public debt will be forgiven.
“The government has cooked the books to hide the fact that it continues to sink our money into the Trans Mountain pipeline,” the MP for Repentigny told the House of Commons in French on Oct. 7.
“In the spring, the minister of finance announced that the government would spend no more public money on Trans Mountain. However, West Coast Environmental Law has revealed that the interest on the project's debt alone will cost us $750 million this year and $800 million next year,” said Pauzé.
The analysis Pauzé referenced was authored by independent economist Robyn Allan, an expert intervenor at the Trans Mountain expansion project hearing, and published Oct. 6 by West Coast Environmental Law.
It predicted the public will eat $17 billion of Trans Mountain’s debt and pointed to strategies that help obscure the true amount of debt incurred by the project. These include “accounting wizardry,” confusing corporate structures and withholding information from the public, Allan told Canada’s National Observer previously.
In response, Liberal MP Yvonne Jones said: “If one really wants to address climate change, it means making bold moves and bold investments.
“When one looks at a comprehensive plan like we have as a government to address climate change, it considers projects like the TMX,” said Jones, who is parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources and the minister of northern affairs. She cited reducing the amount of oil shipped by rail and securing “full value” for Canada’s oil resources as focuses of TMX.
Bloc Québécois MP @m_pauze called out the feds in #QuestionPeriod after a new analysis published by @WCELaw revealed how a shell company and strategic accounting strategies have obscured #TMX's true amount of public debt. #cdnpoli
Pauzé fired back at Jones, criticizing the federal government for sinking public dollars into an oil pipeline project known to be “a financial and environmental disaster” from Day 1.
Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault responded that getting Canadian oil to market “will help us to fund the transition to net-zero.” He added the government doesn’t plan to own TMX long term and “will be moving forward with a divestment process.”
Finance Canada has previously refused to answer questions about how TMX will fund the transition to net-zero emissions when all publicly available information points to it being neither profitable nor commercially viable. The federal government regularly cites secret reports by BMO and TD Securities it claims prove TMX is commercially viable but will not share details. Earlier this year, Canada’s National Observer discovered those reports assume the pipeline operates for another 100 years, which many experts, including the Parliamentary Budget Officer, say is unrealistic.
As previously reported by Canada’s National Observer, to cover the project’s new debt and operational costs and still turn a profit for investors, the tolls oil shippers pay to use the pipeline must be raised to the point the oil won’t be cost-competitive, a report by the Institute for Energy Economic and Financial Analysis found earlier this year.
Finance Canada has so far refused to directly answer questions on whether debt forgiveness is on the table.
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer