Now that the Trans Mountain pipeline has been given approval, members of Project Reconciliation say they are moving forward quickly with plans to pursue an ownership stake in the project.
“The timeline is tight for us because Project Reconciliation’s proposal has always been to buy it and then to build it,” said Delbert Wapass, the former chief of the Thunderchild First Nation and the founder and chair of Project Reconciliation.
As soon as the federal government announced that the project had been given approval, it clarified that its long-term intention was to sell. On Wednesday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said a number of interested buyers had already come forward.
WATCH: Project Reconciliation, a group of First Nations stakeholders, says it’s interested in buying the Trans Mountain pipeline project. Executive chair Delbert Wapass maps out the group’s next steps.
“I’m encouraged to see a number of players come forward with interest in this project,” Morneau said. “We have purely commercial players come forward who are talking about how they would partner with Indigenous people and we’ve had all Indigenous people come forward with their own financial backing.”
As one of at least three different Indigenous groups that have expressed interest in buying a stake in TMX, Project Reconciliation says it’s now focused on bringing everyone together on the same team.
“We understand there is one pipeline for sale and we also understand the federal government or any provincial government isn’t gong to be in a position to choose one over another,” said Gregory John, Project Reconciliation’s vice president of Indigenous relations and engagement.
WATCH: (May 21, 2019) ‘Project Reconciliation’ aims to own majority of Trans Mountain Pipeline
Even if all interested Indigenous groups come together, though, a public policy expert at the University of Calgary believes there will be other competition.
Kent Fellows says he expects players like Transcanada and Kinder Morgan will be interested in investing in the pipeline, once TMX is finally built. Still, in a climate of reconciliation, Fellows believes Indigenous groups may have an edge with the federal government, though there will be obstacles.
“It is encouraging to see that both the First Nations groups and the government are obviously interested in them both being at the table talking about it, but there are a lot of challenges there,” Fellows said.
“First and foremost is raising the capital. The money to pay for the pipeline has to come from somewhere.”
Wapass believes his group will be able to raise the money it needs and that when the government is ready to come to the table, his group will be ready to present a bid.