Potential Indigenous ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline

Project Reconciliation is a First Nations consortium that plans to offer CAD $6.8 billion for majority ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Executive Chairman Delbert Wapass, who is a former Chief of the Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, leads the project, which is well-advanced with meetings with investment banks, oil companies, and First Nations. The group plans to invite all Indigenous communities in Western Canada to join in a united bid for 51 percent of the pipeline.

On Monday, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled principles for Indigenous ownership in Trans Mountain pipeline. The group says federal government principles for Indigenous buyers are “exactly aligned” with its goals.

Among the four points are the suggestion that discussions of potential Indigenous ownership of the pipeline proceed only if the communities involved have “meaningful economic participation,” if the deal can proceed in the spirit of reconciliation, and if the resulting entity works to the benefit of all Canadians and goes forward on a commercial basis. Project Reconciliation executive board member and professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business Harrie Vredenburg said these principles are consistent with messages his organization has shared in meetings with federal department officials over the past five months.

Minister Morneau said the government won’t negotiate the sale of the pipeline it bought for CAD $4.5 billion last summer until after construction of its controversial proposed expansion is “de-risked.” He said the timing and details of the pipeline’s sale depends on when it is “de-risked” and therefore can’t be determined until consultations now underway with affected Indigenous groups are completed. Court-ordered consultations with affected Indigenous groups are expected to wrap up in May, allowing the expansion to go to Ottawa for a decision on approval.