Canada to buy major pipeline to ensure it gets built

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"Harsh, but also true", Nenshi said.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in Calgary Wednesday that many parties have expressed interest in investing in the project, including Indigenous groups, Canadian pension funds and others, but said he was "not aware" of the full extent of interested groups when asked whether another energy company could be a potential buyer.

An existing pipeline company could buy the assets, or the federal government could flow the assets into a standalone operating company in which many investors could buy stakes, said Masson.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a conference Tuesday that federal control over the pipeline could simplify development of at least this project.

"I'm hoping the federal government has had a change of heart (with regards to the need for oil pipelines in Canada)", he said.

Facing stiff environmental opposition from British Columbia's provincial government and activists, Houston-based Kinder Morgan earlier halted essential spending on the project and said it would cancel it altogether if the national and provincial governments could not guarantee it.

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Tim McMillan, president of the Canadian Association of Pipeline Producers, said what happens this week is "huge, not just for our industry or this pipeline, but I think for Canada".

The stock rose to $18 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange but closed about three per cent lower at $16.10 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

He said the company will have a "profitable piece of pipe" if it can complete the expansion. It will also own a terminal in Vancouver and the Cochin Pipeline system, which transports light condensate from the United States to Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.

It expects its approximately 30 per cent share of after-tax proceeds to be about $1.25 billion.

Hal Kvisle says though there are significant risks of further delays and cost overruns, by starting construction in the Burnaby area, the government will be better able to judge the true opposition to the project.

Analysts were less than enthusiastic about the sale.

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But, given the level of controversy surrounding construction, that's a hefty "if".

The Canadian Press has learned there are three options on the table, which include the government buying and building the expansion, then selling it once it's complete; and buying it on an interim basis, then selling it to investors and leaving them to handle the construction.

Pipeline customers Suncor Energy Inc. and Cenovus Energy Inc. welcomed the move as a sign Ottawa recognizes the importance of getting more Alberta crude from the oilsands to more markets.

The federal government's record of making money on investments in energy megaprojects is spotty, but it has often succeeded in saving troubled projects that eventually are sold back to the private sector, said Doucet.

"Ultimately it will take far more than this to restore investors' faith in Canada's project approval process".

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