British Columbia

Why NDP MP Nathan Cullen said Trans Mountain purchase is 'biggest lemon in Canadian history'

Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, NDP MP Nathan Cullen accused the federal Liberal government of buying the "biggest lemon in Canadian history" when it agreed to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan.

Cullen calls pipeline purchase economically irresponsible

NDP MP Nathan Cullen recently called the purchase of the Kinder Morgan pipeline the 'biggest lemon in Canadian history.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Addressing the House of Commons on Monday, NDP MP Nathan Cullen accused the federal Liberal government of buying the "biggest lemon in Canadian history" when it agreed to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan. 

His comments followed a public revision of the estimated size of an oil spill north of Kamloops, B.C., last month.

Initially, British Columbia's Environment Ministry reported the May 27 leak to be approximately 100 litres of crude oil.

At the time, the B.C. Environment Ministry said Kinder Morgan would not confirm the amount of the spill, pending an investigation​.

But on June 10, Kinder Morgan released the true amount of the oil spilt and the revised amount was approximately 4,800 litres. 

Cullen — the B.C. MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley— spoke with Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On the Coast, to discuss his statement.

I'd love to hear more on your thoughts on the plan to purchase the pipeline.

It's a bit crazy, actually, if I think about it.

This is a pipeline Kinder Morgan picked up little over 10 years ago for $550 million. They valued it recently at $2.5 billion.

And we paid $4.5 billion of public money for essentially a 65-year-old pipeline that obviously has some problems.

This is from a government that campaigned and promised to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Instead of ending subsidies [the government] found a new way to subsidize, indemnify and provide insurance for one of the largest multi-national industries in the world.

It's pretty sketchy on just an economic level.

What would you like to see done?

Economically, even if you're pro pipeline, I think the use of public money for this has left a lot of people feeling, "what the heck is going on?"

Why did no one else — why did no oil company in the world — want to buy this thing?

Why does still no oil company in the world want to pick this up?

For those of us who care about salmon, who care about our coast, increasing the risk and dramatically lowering the reward seems like very bad public policy.

Do you think the federal government's Pipeline Safety Act does enough protect to the environment?

[Under the Pipeline Safety Act], this $1 billion the polluter must pay, that the owner must pay ... Well in this case we're the owner.

My question is: have they set aside the billion dollars now that Canada, the Canadian government, the Canadian people have to put up as insurance essentially for any future pipeline leaks?

They haven't budgeted either for the $4.5 billion they're spending on this or the extra $10 billion they need.

All of this adds up to a frustrating situation.

This interview aired during CBC's On the Coast on June 12 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, click on the audio below.

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