by Maureen McCall
When the Federal Liberals announced last May that they were buying the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5B to ensure the expansion would be built, Finance Minister Bill Morneau stated the project was in the national interest, and proceeding with it will preserve jobs, reassure investors and get resources to world markets. He also said the government did not intend to be a long-term owner, and that the government would work with investors to transfer the project and related assets to a new owner or owners.
A little over a year later, First Nations and Indigenous groups are hoping tomorrow’s Federal Government decision on TMX will indicate the government supports and approves of the NEB recommendation that the project goes ahead.
This is a crucial component to the proposals that Indigenous led organizations like Project Reconciliation and the Iron Coalition need to advance their ideas of Indigenous ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
For its part, the Alberta government is working to aid First Nations interested in ownership. Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet met with representatives from all 48 First Nations in Alberta last week to discuss economic opportunities and the $1-billion Indigenous Opportunities Corporation. It’s a proposed Crown corporation that would provide in part, access to capital markets through loan guarantees or co-invested debt and equity lending from the Alberta government. The Indigenous Opportunities Corporation would benefit Indigenous groups that need access to capital and there is a clear encouragement of collaboration between First Nations by Jason Kenney’s government.
“There are at least four consortiums of First Nations who are discussing the possibility of an ownership stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline,” Kenney said last Monday, “I would encourage those different groups to try to work together.”
First Nations interest in TMX ownership and concern for the environment could be a powerful force to move the project forward- softening some of the opposition through mutual interest and breaking down barriers. Further announcements are expected on Wednesday this week as Finance Minister Bill Morneau visits Calgary to speak to the Economic Club of Canada that could include more details about the decision.
When speaking to the press at last week’s Global Petroleum Show, D’Arcy Levesque Vice-President, Public & Government Affairs at Project Reconciliation was optimistic about the project’s chances.
“Minister Morneau has already signaled that the government is open to looking at an Indigenous business partner. I think he and the Prime Minister have indicated that they are committed to reconciliation. We believe that a majority stake in the Trans Mountain is the best form of reconciliation- it is economic empowerment….The Prime Minister has indicated that they want to put shovels in the ground by the end of the summer – we would like to be majority owners during the construction”
When asked for his take on possible West Coast First Nations opposition, Mr. Levesque foresees inclusion as a mitigating factor.
“There are always going to be some communities that are opposed to pipelines or opposed to oil. We get that and we respect that. The reality is most First Nations and Indigenous communities actually support responsible resource development. There’s a myth that every one is opposed to resource development and that’s just not true. The majority of First Nations and Indigenous communities that we are talking to (and we’ve been very inclusive- we’ve said this is open to all Indigenous communities in Western Canada- First Nations and Metis)… they all want to have a seat at the table.”
So at the third important event this week, speakers Delbert Wapass, Executive chair & Founder of Project Reconciliation and Steven Mason, Project Reconciliation managing director & founder will have a great deal to update us on as they speak about First Nations Collaboration in Energy Projects at a Luncheon June 20th at the Calgary Petroleum Club.
They will be joined by Chief Roy Fox- Indian Resource Council Director and past CEO and a Pioneer in First Nations self-management of Natural Resources and Brian Schmidt- Pres & CEO Tamarack Valley Energy, Honorary Blood Tribe member and advisor to Indian Oil and Gas as they discuss their successful upstream joint ventures.
To attend the June 20th event, go to https://securegs.com/registerEvents.php?eID=6017
This will be an interesting week for the Energy Industry in Calgary.