Alistair Questions Minister Brison on the Purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline

The Chair:

Minister, I know you were scheduled here only for an hour. It's been the practice of this committee, where possible, to try to get a complete round in, which means there would be one three-minute round left for your colleague Mr. MacGregor. Would you be willing to stay at the committee to provide answers to questions for an additional three minutes?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

I think I can do three minutes. [Inaudible]

 

The Chair:

You can manage that. Thank you so much.

Mr. MacGregor, the floor is yours.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Thank you, Chair. Thank you, Minister, for indulging me.

Neither the main estimates nor the supplementary estimates include the $4.5 billion purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Your government took a loan, through the Canada Development Investment Corporation, from Export Development Canada, to create a new Crown corporation, Trans Mountain Corporation. We've heard all about this talk of parliamentary oversight. Why would you make such a large purchase and not use the estimates process to get this money approved? If you have so much money floating around from Crown corporations, why on earth is your government spending it on a diluted bitumen exporting pipeline and not addressing the needs of the housing crisis or climate change adaptation and mitigation?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Well, Mr. MacGregor, diversifying our markets for our energy is critically important to—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

It all goes to the United States currently, so you can't use that argument.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Diversifying our energy exports is critically important: 97% of our energy goes to the United States right now.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Through the existing pipeline it does.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Finding new markets for Canadian energy is important. Right now we are selling our Canadian energy at a deep discount as a result of not having the ability to get our....

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Why was this purchase not made through the estimates process?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Well actually, it's a non-budgetary item. Brian can expand on that, but I can tell you that we believe it's in our national interest to complete the TMX project because we need to expand our markets for our energy. Right now Canadian energy is being sold at a deep discount as a result of not having those markets.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

I understand that. Thank you, Minister.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

That is good for all Canadians. That is good for not just people in the energy sector—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Will you be able to find $4.5 billion for other Crown corporations—

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

It is right now the—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

—like the CMHC to provide housing?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Right now the deep discount that we're selling Canadian energy at costs us $15 billion—

 

The Chair:

Colleagues, as I mentioned once before, I'd like to be able to hear both the question and the answer.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

It costs our economy $15 billion per year.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

(Inaudible) my question.

 

The Chair:

Thank you, Minister.

I think Minister Brison said that Mr. Pagan could expand upon the answer directly to your question about the supps.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

I would like to get one more question to the minister.

I don't want to hear anymore on this line of questioning.

 

The Chair:

You have one minute left.

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Minister, I've heard all of your reasoning.

Will your government commit to finding $4.5 billion for other Crown corporations, like the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to spend on housing immediately, if you can do the same for a pipeline?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

Actually, we're making unprecedented investments—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

Right now? This year?

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

—in housing as a government. In fact, our national housing strategy, affordable housing strategy—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

It's all being back-loaded in 2020.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

—is very significant in partnerships. The federal government is clearly (Inaudible)—

 

Mr. Alistair MacGregor:

It's not addressing the crisis.

 

Hon. Scott Brison:

—but Brian, on the item of the non-budgetary item of Trans Mountain.

 

Mr. Brian Pagan:

Thank you for the question, Mr. MacGregor.

In the estimates document, at the front end, you'll see that we break out spending by budgetary, voted, and statutory and non-budgetary, voted, and statutory. Non-budgetary items are those items that go to the bottom line of the Government of Canada. They affect the underlying composition of our assets, so loans, recoveries, investments and advances.

In this case, there is no appropriation authority. We don't need the cash to make this purchase. It is a loan from one Crown corporation to another Crown corporation. It's recorded on the books of the Government of Canada as an asset with an off-setting liability for the amount of that loan.

 

The Chair:

Thank you.

 

Mr. Brian Pagan:

When it is sold, we will either make money or lose money on that transaction and that will be recorded in the underlying statements of the Government of Canada.

 

The Chair:

Thank you very much.