If you or I buy a used car, we will simply write a cheque and maybe get a loan for part of the amount.
Did the government do something so simple when it bought the Trans Mountain pipeline? No. In the words of an April report from the institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, “The government of Canada has structured the acquisition of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, its planned expansion and ongoing operation in a way rendering it impossible to determine how much taxpayers are paying now and will pay in the future.” The report issued this month calls for transparency. Not only do we need to know - after all, it is our pipeline - but without such clarity it will be difficult to sell it.
The report continues: “This project is a multi-billion-dollar, multi-year expenditure involving numerous federal agencies and public/private companies. The Canadian government has already routed payments to fund and develop the pipeline through a maze of government agencies with different missions, reporting mechanisms and accounting standards.”
And “it will be difficult to determine who borrowed what from whom, how much is owed by which government agency, who is paying it back and how much - if any - will be repaid.”
My suspicion, on the basis of some evidence, is that the purchase of the pipeline does not make sense financially. The complex web the government has designed might well be to cover this up.
Further evidence is that one of the institutions involved is the “Canada Account,” the purpose of which is to fund investments said to be in the “national interest” but that have too high a risk of loss and default to qualify for investment.
What we need is a complete and transparent accounting.
David Huntley, Burnaby