BC Chief said Trans Mountain stake should go to Indigenous owners on route

The Canadian federal government is to make a final decision by June 18 on whether the delayed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline can proceed. Finance Minister Bill Morneau previously said the federal government will not negotiate the sale of the pipeline it bought for CAD $4.5 billion last summer until after construction of its proposed expansion is “de-risked,” without explaining what that means.

British Columbia Director Shane Gottfriedson of Project Reconciliation, a First Nations consortium planning to buy a majority stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline, says Ottawa should favour communities along the route when deciding who can make an ownership bid. Mr. Gottfriedson, a former Chief of the Tk’Emlups te Secwepemc First Nation and a former BC regional Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, says the emergence of a rival Alberta Indigenous bidder raises concerns about weakening his group’s all-inclusive bid and that Project Reconciliation’s business model is more “inclusive” because it wants to enlist Indigenous groups from BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in its CAD $6.8-billion bid for a 51 percent stake in the pipeline project.

Iron Coalition, an Alberta-based organization co-chaired by Chief Tony Alexis of Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, just announced details of its intended bid. Iron Coalition says it is the only Alberta group mandated by the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs to pursue the stake and is inviting all First Nations and Metis communities in the province to join in.

On Wednesday. Iron Coalition announced it is inviting First Nations and Metis groups from across Alberta to join its bid team, promising all resulting profits will be split equally among members. Project Reconciliation, on the other hand, is asking for support from Indigenous communities throughout BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and plans to place 80 percent of the cash flow from the pipeline stake into a “sovereign wealth fund” to invest in environmentally friendly projects.

Whispering Pines Indian Band Chief Michael LeBourdais says it makes more sense for his organization, the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, and Iron Coalition to be owners of the pipeline because Trans Mountain brings oil and refined products from Edmonton to Burnaby, BC and it doesn’t pass through Saskatchewan.

Chief LeBourdais said communities in BC and Alberta are the “title and rights holders” when it comes to the pipeline. “Here’s the difference between us and Project Reconciliation,” he said, “We’re the ones bearing all the risk because the pipe goes through my reserve, goes through my traditional territory. These are my rivers, my salmon. We’re bearing all the risk. So we should have more say.”