OTTAWA -- An Indigenous-led group says that it will be ready to submit a bid for a majority stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline and the expansion project as early as next week.
The group, called Project Reconciliation, says that its coming bid will “work for all sides,” and that while the official submission has yet to be finalized the group estimates it will be a $6.9-billion bid for 51 per cent ownership in the existing pipeline for $2.3 billion, and 51 per cent in the expansion project estimated at $4.6 billion.
Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government would indeed be going ahead with the project after considering Indigenous and environmental concerns. At the time, he announced the Liberals would be talking with Indigenous groups about ways they can share in the benefit of the more than $4.5-billion project.
“When it comes to potential Indigenous buy-in, we’re not putting a limit on it. Indigenous ownership in Trans Mountain Corporation could be 25 per cent, 50 per cent or even 100 per cent. These are conversations we’re excited to have,” Trudeau said.
“There’s real momentum towards Indigenous ownership,” said Founder and Executive Chair of Project Reconciliation Delbert Wapass in a statement on Tuesday. “There is a pipeline to reconciliation and we should take it.”
Project Reconciliation is a group that describes itself as being led by First Nations community leaders, but also includes non-Indigenous senior membership. Its structure allows for the involvement of 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.
“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 Project Reconciliation’s D’Arcy Levesque to reporters in Calgary on Wednesday. “We’re more than willing to pay fair market value.”
D’Arcy said it’s yet to be determined who would operate the pipeline should they be the ones to become majority owners.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the government welcomes the interest, and “in the coming weeks” will be launching a process with external experts leading talks engaging with interest Indigenous parties.
“It is important that Indigenous communities have an opportunity for meaningful economic participation while we hold to our commitment of investing in a way that benefits all Canadians, and that operates the project on a commercial basis,” said spokesperson Pierre-Olivier Herbert.
Indigenous ownership in the controversial pipeline and twinning that route through Indigenous territory between Alberta and British Columbia could be a political win for the Liberals who continue to face backlash over the decision to purchase, and push ahead with the major natural resource development project while vowing to reset Indigenous-Crown relations.