Not nearly there yet: Morneau on Indigenous ownership of TMX

Western Indigenous Pipeline Group CEO Joe Dion says Ottawa must deal with them first as they’re on the TMX right-of-way, but Morneau was non-commital.

The fiscal update from Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s department talked up work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion his government nationalized for $4.5 billion in 2018, but the extent of promised Indigenous ownership remains to be seen.

“We are in the process of discussing with Indigenous people the potential for their ownership…that potential goes right up to the entire ownership possibly,” said Morneau on Monday following the release of his department’s fiscal update

“But we’re not nearly there yet so we don’t yet have a sense of the interest.  We don’t yet have a sense of which of the Indigenous peoples impacted would be keenly interested and capable of moving forward.”

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s offer to sell indigenous buyers 100 percent of the project – an existing, operational 1150km bitumen pipeline and the project to twin it – three buyers have emerged.

These include the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group whose First Nation partners live on the TMX right-of-way, Project Reconciliation and Alberta Iron Coalition.

Additionally, Métis settlements in Alberta already affected by the oil patch say they are being left out of the entire discussion on future development decisions related to TMX.

The Post Millennial has spoken to each of these Indigenous interests previously, except Alberta Iron Coalition; all are bullish on owning the project.

Métis remain supportive of the pipeline expansion, but want more attention paid to managing cumulative impacts from development to date, before TMX triples the current pipeline’s volume of 300,000 barrels/day.

While Western Indigenous Pipeline Group CEO Joe Dion insists that Ottawa is duty-bound to deal with them first as their interests are directly bisected by TMX, Morneau made no commitments.

“We’re not far enough along to get to a conclusion on (indigenous ownership) and certainly not far enough along to get to any idea of whether one group versus another group would be involved in that,” the minister said on that question.

Adding some uncertainty to TMX fortunes are six coastal First Nations in British Columbia, who are at Federal Court of Appeal this week to argue the second round of consultations for the pipeline expansion were again, inadequate.

The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations scored their first victory against the Trans Mountain project back on August 30, 2018, after the federal appeals court quashed original National Energy Board permits.

Within 24 hours of this decision, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted to sell Trans Mountain to the Government of Canada and Ottawa re-started consultations with affected First Nations.