Trudeau Stands by Trans Mountain Expansion as Strong Investment Amid Challenges

(Reuters) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he was confident the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion was a solid investment and that interest is high among Indigenous groups who want to buy a share of the pipeline.

The Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) is expected to nearly triple the flow of crude from Alberta's oil sands to Burnaby, British Columbia, and is intended to unlock Asian markets for Canadian oil, which is now mostly exported to the United States.

The Canadian government bought the pipeline for C$4.5 billion ($3.3 billion) in 2018 to make sure the project was completed after it ran into challenges, including opposition from Indigenous peoples and environmentalists.

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Now that it is nearing completion, the government has approached Indigenous groups looking at buying a portion of the pipeline.

"I am very excited and interested that there are so many Indigenous groups interested in purchasing the TMX pipeline. We're engaged in conversations with them right now," Trudeau told reporters in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

"We are confident that the business case for the Trans Mountain pipeline remains solid," Trudeau said, when asked whether the government would have to sell the pipeline for less than it cost to build it.

The government has not said how much the pipeline would sell for, nor has it fixed a deadline for the sale.

The project has been beset with construction delays and cost overruns, and is now expected to cost nearly C$31 billion, more than quadrupling the C$7.4 billion budgeted in 2017.

The government does not want to be the long-term owner of the project, which is due to start shipping in the first quarter of 2024.

($1 = 1.3566 Canadian dollars)

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