The Indigenous-led Project Reconciliation is expected to announce a C$6.9-billion bid for majority ownership of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline as early as next week, with the group’s leadership promising a proposal that will “work for all sides”.
The group expects to offer $2.3 billion for the existing pipeline and $4.6 billion for the expansion project and come away with a 51% stake in both.
“There’s real momentum towards Indigenous ownership,” said Founder and Executive Chair Delbert Wapass. “There is a pipeline to reconciliation, and we should take it.”
“Our proposal will, I think, provide the government, and in this case the seller, with an understanding of what we propose to do as the purchaser,” said D’Arcy Levesque, a former executive with Enbridge and the Hill+Knowlton government relations firm who now serves as Project Reconciliation’s vice-president, public and government affairs. “We’re more than willing to pay fair market value.”
“We welcome the interest from Indigenous groups and are launching an engagement process that will actively seek input from Indigenous groups on ways that they could benefit now that the project is moving ahead,” responded Pierre-Olivier Herbert, spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau. “In the coming weeks, we will be announcing a panel of external experts to help lead those discussions.”
CTV describes Project Reconciliation as a group of First Nations community leaders that includes non-Indigenous senior membership, with a structure that allows for participation by Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. “The group is still in the process of reaching out to Indigenous communities in the area, but says they will soon be ready to sit down with the federal government to present their pitch,” the TV news network states.
Bloomberg notes that at least two Indigenous bids for the project are taking shape. “An Alberta-based organization called Iron Coalition seeks to buy as much as 100% of the pipeline for First Nation and Métis communities in Alberta and British Columbia.”
Reuters suggests a deal before the federal election this fall “might end [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s Trans Mountain nightmare”, helping to counter criticisms of the government’s decision to purchase, then re-approve the project. “The greatest hope the government can have is they neutralize this topic,” said University of Saskatchewan public policy professor Ken Coates. “Imagine if a multinational gets ownership of the pipeline, or an Indigenous consortium. The Indigenous (option) is way less provocative.”
“A deal ahead of an October election could ease criticism from voters who have complained of broken promises on the environment and Aboriginal rights,” Reuters states. But “not all First Nations groups are onboard. Some in British Columbia have pledged to keep fighting expansion of Trans Mountain, even with blockades and protests, saying ownership makes no difference to the risk of oil leaks.”