Finance Minister Bill Morneau will give an update on the state of negotiations with Kinder Morgan over the Trans Mountain pipeline project Wednesday, setting out in broad strokes what Ottawa is willing to do to help the project go ahead, CBC News has learned.
A government official, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity, said Morneau will present a suite of options to help eliminate some of the risk the project is facing after Kinder Morgan suspended spending on it in the face of opposition from the B.C. government.
Morneau will explain how the proposed steps will help ease Kinder Morgan's concerns, while also ensuring that Canadians aren't exposed to excessive financial risk, the official said.
It was announced late Tuesday night as Morneau consulted with senior officials in the Alberta government. Morneau also spoke with Kinder Morgan CEO Steve Kean by phone to tell him what he was going to say.
"There's still a lot of work left to do," the official said. "But at least we are talking about the same sorts of things."
Another senior government official said Morneau would offer a "major update," but cautioned that talks "are not over by a long shot," just weeks before the project hits a potential drop dead date.
Kinder Morgan has threatened to abandon the project if a clear path forward isn't reached by May 31. The company's statement came after a months-long standoff between the British Columbia and Alberta governments, with B.C. working to block the pipeline for environmental reasons over Alberta's objections.
The expansion would add a second pipeline along an existing pipeline route to carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to the B.C. coast for export on tankers.
Ottawa has promised financial and political support for the project to help boost the economy and to send a message that Canada is a good place to invest.
But a senior Alberta government official told CBC News late Tuesday that "Kinder Morgan is not making this easy."
Much at stakeThe official, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity, said there is "a lot to lose right now."
Morneau's update comes as the May 31 deadline draws closer — and less than 24 hours after the prime minister gave an evasive answer on the state of talks during a visit to Calgary on Tuesday.
"We continue to work very, very hard, both visibly and behind the scenes," Trudeau said to reporters.
"When we have something to announce, you guys will be the first to know."
The timing of the Morneau update is important for another reason. With Kinder Morgan shareholders meeting Wednesday in Calgary, it's an opportunity for Morneau to put public pressure on the company.