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"It's very possible we might not have to spend a cent of it", Notley said of the financial backing, which would be payable only when oil begins to flow from the twinned pipeline.

The project has been in difficulty since British Columbia went to court to try to block it.

If Canada indeed ends up buying the pipeline, it will be exclusively to ensure its capacity can be tripled, allowing Canada to find new export markets for its oil resources, Morneau said - and that ultimately, the long-term goal will be to find a private-sector buyer to take it over.

An ardent supporter of the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion, Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said she was disappointed to learn Tuesday that the federal Liberal government had purchased Kinder Morgan's Canadian assets.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, however, could barely contain her delight.

In October, Indigenous and environmental groups began a lawsuit against the National Energy Board, Kinder Morgan and the federal government. "They're willing to get involved", said Ball. In order to expand deliveries from the tar sands area, there was an attempt to build the Keystone XL pipeline, but the Obama administration killed that by denying a permit for the pipeline to cross the border.

"I think a lot of us who knocked on doors for the Trudeau government really believed them when they said they were going to bring evidence-based analysis and science and democratic process back to pipeline reviews".

The federal government can in theory step in and disallow any provincial laws that British Columbia might use to block the pipeline, but this provision in the Canadian constitution has not been used since the 1940s. "The only (way) in our estimation that that can be done is through exerting our jurisdiction by purchasing the project".

"While these are exceptional circumstances, we are pleased that the Trans Mountain Expansion project will proceed, beginning this construction season", spokesperson Alita Fabiano said in a statement.

One analyst floated another potential home: Kinder Morgan itself. Suzanne Wilton, a spokeswoman for Enbridge, said the company is focused on its C$22 billion growth program and would not speculate on the project. A sardonic Craigslist user has put the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion up for sale. The Export Development Bank of Canada will finance the plan and create a Crown corporation to run and manage the pipeline during Canada's ownership period.

Many expressed outrage at the government's decision to buy the pipeline.

While the Canadian government says it does not plan to be the long-term owner of the pipeline, its decision to purchase the project on Tuesday is part of an effort to ensure the massive pipeline expansion proceeds this summer as planned.

"Comes with federal approval". But Ottawa will immediately seek new buyers in the private sector and has promised to also extend insurance to them for any politically-motivated delays.

The planned expansion to 890,000 barrels a day could open up exports to growing markets in Asia, lessening Canada's nearly exclusive dependency on the U.S.as a market for its oil and reducing the discount energy companies receive from the crude.

Kinder Morgan Canada, the unit that raised C$1.75 billion (US$1.3 billion) for the project in an initial public offering previous year, declined to comment on the speculation.