First Nations group within 'striking distance' of making Trans Mountain bid
A First Nations consortium is planning to offer about $6.8 billion to buy a 51 per cent stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline, which the federal government purchased last year from Kinder Morgan Canada.
Delbert Wapass, former chief of Thunderchild First Nation and current vice-chairman of the Indian Resource Council, is leading the effort as executive chairman of a group called Project Reconciliation.
The planned bid by Wapass’ group was first reported by The Globe and Mail.
Wapass told BNN Bloomberg that Project Reconciliation has met with investment banks and held a number of informal talks with government officials, adding that the group is within "striking distance" of making a formal bid.
“We’re very close. If there was an announcement tomorrow or next week [by the federal government], we’d be ready. We’ve done a lot of work,” Wapass said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Catherine Murray Thursday.
He added that preliminary discussions with government officials – including the Deputy Minister of Finance – have been met with optimism.
“They see the situation. They see the need of First Nations people standing up and trying to do something that is going to benefit all people – not only First Nations, but Canadians as a whole,” Wapass said.
The group has already begun inviting First Nations groups in Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. to become partners in its bid for Trans Mountain. Wapass said that while the response has so far been positive, he acknowledges that there will be opposition from some communities.
“We expect that those First Nations that don’t want to get involved [with Trans Mountain] are going to be very adamant about staying out of their territory,” he said. “Once we’re given the opportunity to share what we’re all about, what we’re going to be doing, the decision is theirs."
“We’re not there to dictate nor are we there to push ourselves on anybody.”
The Canadian government bought the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and related assets for $4.5 billion last summer, after Kinder Morgan threatened to abandon its expansion project because of persistent delays. The Trudeau government has pledged to get the expansion built – which would roughly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline – and has said it will not be a long-term owner of the pipeline.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said previously that the government will not negotiate the sale of Trans Mountain until after construction of its controversial proposed expansion is “de-risked.”
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.
In a statement earlier this week, Morneau said if the expansion project gets the go-ahead, the government would be "committed to exploring the possibility of Indigenous economic participation."
Wapass indicated that while the group is estimating it will pay $6.8 billion, it would be willing to increase that price for a majority stake in the pipeline.
“We want to demonstrate that we’re open for business and we know how to do business as First Nations people. And being stewards of the land we’ll demonstrate we know how to bring the balance that’s required to be a successful business,” Wapass said.
With files from The Canadian Press