Imagine walking into a used car dealership. The dealer offers you a car but he’s not quite sure if the car runs or not. While it’s in the garage to see if it does, you agree on a price. However, in the event it does run, the dealer can choose not to sell it to you. If it doesn’t run, you can’t back out and the dealer goes ahead with the sale. Even the most dimwitted buyer wouldn’t agree to those terms, yet that’s exactly the position the Federal Government seemed to have been in on the Transmountain Pipeline.
Buying the project wasn’t exactly a popular decision in the first place, and that was before last week’s Supreme Court decision came down. But the circumstances surrounding the deal are truly mind-boggling.
While plenty said they were shocked or surprised about the Supreme Court’s decision, the real shocker was that Kinder Morgan shareholders, apparently, didn’t have to decide on whether to sell the project, at the Canadian government’s proposed price, until after the Supreme Court decision.
It seems the Federal Government and Kinder Morgan agreed on a price months ago when the outcome was uncertain, but left Kinder Morgan the final decision after the details were in. In essence, Trudeau put Canadian taxpayers in a lose, lose scenario. If the project got the OK from the Supreme Court, they were apparently free to hold on to it and reap the profits. If, as it turned out, the Supreme Court ruled against it, taxpayers would be left paying the price for a project the future of which looks uncertain.
Of course, it’s not all over and done with just yet. The ruling could be challenged in court or the government could go back and do more assessments/consultations. However, even if the project does go ahead at some point (and that “if” became a lot bigger this week), there’ll long and costly delays.
Yes, the deal left Canadian taxpayers holding a boondoggle of a project. Yes, it vindicated First Nations’ rights. Yes, the National Energy Board didn’t do its job right. Yes, it’s a good day for environmentalists. And, yes, it probably hurts Canada’s reputation as an investment destination. However, most of all it’s clear that Canadians can’t trust Trudeau’s team to buy a “used car.”
That’s a mighty scary proposition when we’re in major negotiations with a country led by someone who couldn’t reek more like a used car salesman.