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A Canadian indigenous organization is set to submit its bid for a stake in Trans Mountain, the oil-sands pipeline that was bought by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s government amid fierce opposition to its expansion.
Project Reconciliation, headed by former Thunderchild First Nation Chief Delbert Wapass, will probably make a formal offer next week, Stephen Mason, managing director, said by phone Tuesday.
“We want to be proactive,” Mason said.
The government purchased the pipeline last year from Kinder Morgan Inc. after the company threatened to cancel plans to expand the line amid opposition from environmental groups and the government of British Columbia, the province the conduit crosses to reach the Pacific Ocean.
After giving the expansion a final go-ahead last month, the government hasn’t yet specified how ownership would be transferred. Discussions where Indigenous communities will be able to provide their views will be held in Vancouver and other cities starting this month.
“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,” Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a finance ministry spokesman, said in an email. “In the coming weeks, we will be announcing a panel of external experts to help lead those discussions.”
Project Reconciliation, which would include communities in oil-rich Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, is one among multiple groups of First Nations seeking ownership of Trans Mountain as a way to earn revenue, alleviate poverty and build political and economic clout in Canada. An Alberta-based organization called Iron Coalition seeks to buy as much as 100% of the pipeline for First Nation and Metis communities in Alberta and British Columbia.
Two weeks ago, Project Reconciliation presented plans for buying a 51 per cent stake in the line initially using government-backed loans. The group believes that ownership should be transferred before construction starts, which could happen later this summer.