Canada’s finance minister confirmed Monday that the government is consulting with Indigenous groups about their potential participation with the proposed Trans Mountain expansion project — and reaffirmed that the government wants to move the pipeline back into the private industry.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was at the Fairmont Palliser hotel in Calgary on Monday to discuss the federal budget, which came out last week.

He also expanded on the announcement that the government is planning exploratory talks with Indigenous groups on possible equity and revenue-sharing arrangements on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

“We’ve said that we will consider Indigenous equity participation as being an important part of the economic advantage for those groups in the project,” Morneau said Monday.

The government is still going through the consultation process — and Morneau said he can’t confirm that there will be Indigenous participation.

Morneau said consultations are being guided by four main principles: 

  • The potentially impacted Indigenous communities would have an opportunity for meaningful economic participation in the project.
  • Their participation could help the economic development of their communities, in keeping with the spirit of reconciliation. 
  • The government invested in the Trans Mountain Corporation to benefit all Canadians.
  • That the project would be built and operated on a commercial basis.

‘Strive for balance’

President and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, Stephen Buffalo, said he had a mixed reaction to the announcement. He said he wants to know who is involved in high-level discussions about the pipeline.

“You know, I’m optimistic that at least he’s acknowledged that there could be something there, but I’m skeptical about the fact again that who are they consulting with, talking with? I think it’s important that they continue to strive for that balance,” Buffalo said.

President and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, Stephen Buffalo, said he had a mixed reaction to the announcement. (CBC)

No timeline

Morneau said the government bought the pipeline because there was a level of risk that meant the private sector wouldn’t move forward.

“We see our function as de-risking the project, and once the project is de-risked then we see that it has the potential to get back into commercial ownership,” Morneau said.

He added that the timeline of when that ‘de-risking’ might occur is unclear, and that the government has to get through Stage III consultations before they get to the point where they can consider any decision.

Protest outside

Hundreds of protestors from pro-pipeline groups were outside the conference Monday, Calgary Police estimated.

The crowd gathered outside the hotel where Morneau was speaking, holding pro-energy signs.

Protestors from pro-pipeline groups held signs outside where Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau spoke on Monday. (CBC)

“We recognize that there are real economic challenges right now in Alberta, and they’re impacting people on a-day-to-day basis,” Morneau said.

Morneau said the government has made clear commitments, which he believes demonstrates that Alberta’s economy is important, as is bringing Canadian resources to international markets.

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