​Ottawa launches consultations on Indigenous ownership of Trans Mountain pipeline

Federal finance minister Bill Morneau spoke at the Economic Club of Canada in Calgary on Monday. Image: Canadian Club of Toronto.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government is launching a new set of consultations with Indigenous groups that will determine if and how they might take part in ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion project.

Speaking in Calgary, the minister says up to 129 communities will be consulted over the next weeks and months to ensure they have a chance for "meaningful economic participation” in the pipeline.

He says the groups will be asked their level of support for equity-based or revenue-sharing options, as well as whether groups are willing to work with each other through existing or new organizations.

In a speech, the minister welcomed a Federal Court of Appeal ruling last week that set aside a challenge of the Trans Mountain expansion project by four B.C. First Nations, noting the project is important to the economic well-being of the West.

The court found that the government had met its duty to consult, thus endorsing its response to an earlier ruling that had stalled the pipeline and clearing one of the last major hurdles for construction to continue on the conduit from the Alberta oilsands and refining hub in Edmonton to the B.C. coast.

Morneau says the federal government will earn a profit when it sells Trans Mountain, despite a new construction cost estimate made last week of $12.6 billion, an increase of 70 per cent over the previous forecast of $7.4 billion.

"We believe this new estimate is realistic and we remain confident that when it's the appropriate time to sell, we will see a profit on this investment,'' Morneau said.

The government expects to earn $500 million a year in taxes from Trans Mountain after it begins operating, he added.

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