The controversial Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project will face less opposition if Indigenous communities acquire a controlling stake, according to Steve Mason, the managing director and co-founder of Project Reconciliation.

Project Reconciliation is a First Nations consortium that is aiming to buy a 51-per-cent stake in Trans Mountain, which the federal government purchased last year for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan Canada amid protests and legal challenges against the pipeline. 

“A lot of the opposition is coming from First Nations that aren’t actually on the line but have communities near the line,” Mason told BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman on Wednesday. “By virtue of them having equity ownership, we believe that the opposition to the pipeline will actually be significantly less.”

The Trans Mountain expansion project seeks to nearly triple the capacity of an existing pipeline from Alberta to a port in the Vancouver area. The Trudeau government has pledged to decide by June 18 whether to proceed with it. Negotiations can’t officially begin until that time.

Mason said that while Project Reconciliation wants the government to continue owning a 49-per-cent stake in the project during construction, the group is interested in negotiating an option to eventually own the entire pipeline once it’s completed.

The consortium has discussed financing with all of Canada’s Bix Six banks, and recently signed a formal agreement with one of them, Mason said, while declining to name the institution for confidentiality reasons.

Mason added that he believes the Trudeau government is committed to getting the Trans Mountain expansion project built.

“We’ve heard indications from federal government … that this is in the national interest,” Mason said. “Our belief is that once the permit is issued, and the government’s intention is to build it, it will be built.”