(The Canadian Press)

Ottawa reports $29M profit at Trans Mountain but critic says accounting flawed

The report, based on numbers from Canada Development Investment Corp., notes operating expenses of $366 million

A report that says the Trans Mountain pipeline system has earned net income of $29 million in the 19 months since it was purchased by Ottawa relies on faulty accounting, according to a vocal critic of the project.

The oil conduit running from Edmonton to the Vancouver area had operating revenues of $728 million, mainly from user tolls, since it was purchased in the fall of 2018 from Kinder Morgan Canada for about $4.4 billion, according to an online analysis from the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer posted Wednesday.

The report, based on numbers from Canada Development Investment Corp. — which owns the pipeline on the government’s behalf — notes operating expenses of $366 million, financing costs of $223 million and a $172-million depletion and depreciation expense on the pipeline assets.

Those were offset in part by a $61-million tax recovery thanks to a decrease in Alberta’s corporate tax rate as well as lower income taxes for the period ended March 31.

“An increase in construction costs or changes in the price of oil could affect profitability but for the first months up to March 2020, the pipeline seems to have been profitable,” said Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux in an interview.

In a report last November, the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis charged that Trans Mountain is receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in hidden direct and indirect federal and provincial government subsidies.

It listed the Alberta tax cut as a subsidy even though it applies to all businesses and said the project also benefits from lower-than-market interest rates given its high level of risk.

The Department of Finance, however, responded at the time that the government does not consider any part of its investment in the pipeline to be a subsidy.

“This (report) is a very narrow focus and does not include the massive subsidies that have been offered to the project, direct and indirect subsidies,” said IEEFA financial analyst Kathy Hipple on Wednesday.

In February, Trans Mountain announced a revised construction cost estimate for its expansion project, bumping it up by about 70 per cent from $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion.

In spite of the increased cost and the dramatic downturn in oil prices this year due to the pandemic fuelled economic downturn, the pipeline has not written down its goodwill, although oil producers have recognized billions in such writedowns, Hipple said.

“This is astonishing to me,” she said.

But Giroux defended the numbers, noting that pipeline economics are different than oil production economics.

“The issue of oil prices could affect future revenue but the tolls are being determined by the Canadian Energy Regulator so tolls are not as dependent on the price of oil itself,” he said.

“They’re dependent on the volume, so as long as Trans Mountain has secured contracts to fill the majority of its expanded capacity, revenues should not be too much at risk.”

The PBO added the CDIC has revised the sensitivity analysis it uses to determine goodwill impairments.

It previously provided estimates for the impact of a 10 per cent increase in construction costs or a one-year delay in construction, along with higher interest rates.

It now estimates a 0.25 per cent increase in interest would have a $500 million impact on the value of the project, a $600 million increase in construction costs would have a $200 million impact and the impact of a one-year delay plus a $600-million cost increase would be $900 million.

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Pipeline

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

The ‘new normal’ for hockey parents in Chilliwack and elsewhere in B.C., watching their kids from outside of the arena due to COVID-19 protocols. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hockey parents petition to be let back in the arena

Refused access due to pandemic protocols, parents are now applying pressure to loosen the rules

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of B.C. girl, 7, by accused mother was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Some of the characters in the League of Legends video game. (Photo: na.leagueoflegends.com)
E-sports trial at B.C. high schools to start with ‘League of Legends’ team game

For fall launch, Vancouver’s GameSeta company partners with BC School Sports

Most Read