Trans Mountain approval 'doesn't move the needle' for equity investors: Money manager
The approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has sharpened divisions between Canada’s indigenous communities, with some fiercely opposing the line and others seeking to own it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday announced his approval of the project to increase the capacity of Canada’s only crude pipeline system running from Alberta’s oil sands to the country’s coast. Some groups in neighbouring British Columbia, which the conduit crosses to reach the Pacific in the Vancouver area, are vowing to fight the decision. Others in oil-producing Alberta and Saskatchewan are advancing plans to buy majority stakes in the line.
Leah George-Wilson, chief of the Tsleil-Waututh, vowed to take the approval to the federal court of appeal, saying her nation is ready to use “all legal tools” to fight the project. Her community’s traditional territory lies along the Burrard Inlet where oil tanker traffic is set to surge sevenfold. Other indigenous groups including the Squamish also pledged to keep up the legal battle.
Delbert Wapass, executive chair of Project Reconciliation and former chief of the Thunderchild First Nation in Saskatchewan, said he was “very pleased” by the prime minister’s approval. His group seeks to buy a majority stake in Trans Mountain and Wapass said his organization will be reaching out to the government soon. He said “it’s very realistic” that a majority stake in the pipeline could be secured this year.
Other groups are also vying for a stake. Alberta-based Iron Coalition is meeting with the province’s government this week as it puts together financing arrangements and seeks members, Tony Alexis, chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and a member of the group’s leadership team, said by phone. Ownership should be open to indigenous groups in just Alberta and British Columbia, he said.
Indigenous supporters of pipeline ownership argue that revenue from the pipeline can be invested in local communities, alleviate poverty and build political clout for First Nations and Metis communities in Canada.
Canada’s federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline last year from Kinder Morgan Inc. after the company threatened to cancel plans to expand the line amid fierce opposition from British Columbia, including from First Nations in the province. While the purchase kept the project alive, it was short-circuited by a court decision last summer that forced the government to restart the regulatory approval process.
While Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said that indigenous ownership of Trans Mountain could be positive, any move on selling stakes in the pipeline would need to wait for the regulatory process to be completed.