Indigenous Canadian groups jockey for Trans Mountain Pipeline stake

Image: Kinder Morgan Canada

Canadian indigenous groups are clamouring to buy a stake in the Trans Mountain Pipeline ahead of a government decision this month to proceed with expanding the line.

Alberta-based Iron Coalition on Wednesday announced its intention to seek ownership in Trans Mountain -- the only pipeline running from Alberta to the Pacific coast -- when the conduit comes up for sale.

The coalition, formed with a mandate from the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs for this purpose, is following moves by a group called Project Reconciliation to purchase a 51% stake in the project.

The groups argue that the pipeline, which would increase crude exports of Canadian crude to growing markets in Asia, could bring needed revenue to their communities to support development, build wealth and increase their political clout in Canada.

Their support for the project runs counter to the position taken by some First Nations groups in neighboring British Columbia, where part of the pipeline would be built. Those communities have fiercely fought the expansion on environmental grounds, with the battle prompting developer Kinder Morgan Inc. to threaten to scrap the project. Instead, the federal government bought the pipeline and proposed expansion for C$4.2 billion last year.

The Iron Coalition held talks with Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau earlier this year and is open to owning all or part of the line, Tony Alexis, chief of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and a member of the group’s leadership team, said by phone.

“The prospect of ownership is drawing lots of attention from institutional investors,” he said. “We are working with the First Nation and Métis communities right now. We still have work to do.”

The federal government has pledged to decide by June 18 whether to proceed with the expansion. Morneau has said he’s open to selling shares of the line to indigenous owners but not before the government gives the final go-ahead.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.