TMX approved, Trudeau puts no limit on Indigenous ownership
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians we could eat his climate action cake and have the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion too, approving the twinning of the TMX bitumen corridor from Edmonton to Vancouver.
“We don’t see these goals as irreconcilable, we see them as complimentary,” Trudeau announced at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. This a day after Parliament declared a climate emergency due to hydrocarbon energy consumption.
Trudeau promised “to have shovels in the ground this construction season” and that “every dollar Canada earns from this project will be invested in our clean energy transition…up to $500 million a year.”
The prime minister said he was open to negotiating “an equity stake or revenue sharing” agreements with Indigenous groups and that “there was no limit on Indigenous participation.”
“It could be 100 percent (equity),” he said.
Forty-three First Nations and other Indigenous groups currently back Trans Mountain, while only a dozen joined the Tsleil-Waututh’s Federal Court of Appeal challenge over insufficient consultation in the National Energy Board’s decision to twin the pipeline.
Before the challenge, the Houston-based energy giant boasted $400 million in ‘Mutual Benefit Agreements’ (MBAs) with First Nations who are onside.
After the Tsliel-Waututh federal court undertaking began at the beginning of last year, the Liberal government announced it would buy the entire stake from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion last May.
On August 30, 2018, the federal court quashed NEB’s approval, the same day 99 percent of the Houston Texas firm’s shareholders voted to sell its Trans Mountain interests to Canada.
And now Canada is looking for a buyer. Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Leah Wilson told CTV News before Trudeau’s announcement her group is not interested “and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect our (territory).”
However three Indigenous groups have made serious overtures for an ownership stake; the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group of First Nation’s on the 1150 kilometre right of way, the Alberta Iron Coalition and Project Reconciliation, a third consortium Indigenous business interests.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer put his press release out hours before what many considered a done-deal heading into next federal election.
“Today’s cabinet decision gets us no closer to having this vital, job-creating protect than we were when it was first approved two and a half years ago,” said Scheer.
During Trudeau’s opening remarks, he reiterated that Canada’s primary customer of 99 percent of Alberta’s oil remained the United States.
“It doesn’t make any sense to sell our resources at a discount,” he said. “We basically have only one customer for our resources, the United States…we can only make choices when we have choices.”
The Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by several Indigenous groups challenging the Liberal government’s approval of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline.
The dismissal is a big step in the legal battle that has delayed the pipeline project for months. The project, totalled at $7.4 billion, is set to transport nearly one million barrels of Albertan oil per day to British Columbia.
The Indigenous groups that went to court were the Coldwater Indian Band (Coldwater), Squamish Nation (Squamish), Tsleil-Waututh Nation (Tsleil-Waututh) and Aitchelitz, Skowkale, Shxwha:y Village, Soowahlie, Squiala First Nation, Tzeachten and Yakweakwioose (Ts’elxweyeqw).
The decision came in at a unanimous 3-0, with the court ruling that Ottawa acted reasonably and conducted “meaningful” consultations with Indigenous peoples that would be affected by the pipeline’s construction.
The courts also found that out of all 129 Indigenous groups potentially affected by the pipeline’s construction, the overwhelming majority support it or do not oppose it. 34 groups have signed benefit agreements.
“This was anything but rubber-stamping exercise. The end result was not a ratification of the earlier approval, but an approval with amended conditions flowing directly from renewed consultation,” the court ruled. “All very much consistent with the concepts of reconciliation and the honour of the Crown.”
The court’s ruling states that the groups “did not show that Canada failed to meet its duty to consult and accommodate during the re-initiated consultations.”
“For the foregoing reasons, the applications for judicial review are dismissed with costs to the respondents.”
The groups have 60 days to appeal the court’s decision, thus bringing the issue up to Canada’s Supreme Court.
‘A victory for common sense and rule of law’
Premier Kenney commented on the victory, calling it a win “for common sense and the rule of law.” His full comment can be read below:
“This is a victory for common sense and the rule of law. We are pleased the Federal Court of Appeal made a fair decision. This ruling confirms what we’ve known all along: the Trans Mountain expansion project has been held to the highest standard at every turn.
“Now that this legal hurdle has been cleared, there is absolutely no denying that it’s time to get this pipeline built. TMX will result in billions of dollars of economic prosperity for Canadians and create well-paying jobs throughout the country.“
“While we respect the opinion of those who have voiced opposition to the project, the fact is the majority of First Nations communities – and the majority of Canadians – want to share in the economic benefits of responsible resource development. That’s demonstrated by the 58 mutual benefit agreements that Trans Mountain has signed with Indigenous communities across Alberta and British Columbia.“
“We particularly appreciate the clarity in the decision that the duty to consult does not equal a veto.“
“This marks an important milestone for TMX, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. Completion of construction remains the one true measure of success. We will hold our celebrations until oil is flowing through the pipeline.“
“Our government will continue to stand up for Alberta by advocating for increased market access and protecting the value of our energy exports to grow our economy and create jobs.”
The Supreme Court has dismissed B.C.’s appeal of the Trans Mountain pipeline project.
The province was asking for jurisdiction over the project, but the Supreme Court deemed that the natural energy project was completely a federal jurisdiction.
According to CTV, “If B.C. had been successful they could have been in a position to block heavy oil from moving through the pipeline, throwing into jeopardy the multi-billion dollar project and expansion that the federal government bought from Kinder Morgan in 2018.”
The federal government successfully argued that giving B.C. jurisdiction would lead to the province basically having a veto over projects that span over provinces.
The fiscal update from Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s department talked up work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion his government nationalized for $4.5 billion in 2018, but the extent of promised Indigenous ownership remains to be seen.
“We are in the process of discussing with Indigenous people the potential for their ownership…that potential goes right up to the entire ownership possibly,” said Morneau on Monday following the release of his department’s fiscal update
“But we’re not nearly there yet so we don’t yet have a sense of the interest. We don’t yet have a sense of which of the Indigenous peoples impacted would be keenly interested and capable of moving forward.”
Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s offer to sell indigenous buyers 100 percent of the project – an existing, operational 1150km bitumen pipeline and the project to twin it – three buyers have emerged.
These include the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group whose First Nation partners live on the TMX right-of-way, Project Reconciliation and Alberta Iron Coalition.
Additionally, Métis settlements in Alberta already affected by the oil patch say they are being left out of the entire discussion on future development decisions related to TMX.
The Post Millennial has spoken to each of these Indigenous interests previously, except Alberta Iron Coalition; all are bullish on owning the project.
Métis remain supportive of the pipeline expansion, but want more attention paid to managing cumulative impacts from development to date, before TMX triples the current pipeline’s volume of 300,000 barrels/day.
While Western Indigenous Pipeline Group CEO Joe Dion insists that Ottawa is duty-bound to deal with them first as their interests are directly bisected by TMX, Morneau made no commitments.
“We’re not far enough along to get to a conclusion on (indigenous ownership) and certainly not far enough along to get to any idea of whether one group versus another group would be involved in that,” the minister said on that question.
Adding some uncertainty to TMX fortunes are six coastal First Nations in British Columbia, who are at Federal Court of Appeal this week to argue the second round of consultations for the pipeline expansion were again, inadequate.
The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations scored their first victory against the Trans Mountain project back on August 30, 2018, after the federal appeals court quashed original National Energy Board permits.
Within 24 hours of this decision, Kinder Morgan shareholders voted to sell Trans Mountain to the Government of Canada and Ottawa re-started consultations with affected First Nations.
Construction is set to begin on the first section of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
According to the Globe and Mail, Trans Mountain Corp. will begin to lay pipe near Edmonton as the delayed project finally moves towards construction.
The progress could help ease some friction between Alberta and the federal government, although this could once again be constrained should environmentalists begin another campaign to stop pipeline growth.
The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will triple the current capacity and allow for more oil to make it to both export markets in Vancouver and refineries in the United States.
Currently, the multiple organizations believe Canada loses from 50-70 million per day as a result of lacking pipeline infrastructure.
Saskatchewan’s Finance Minister Donna Harpauer has said in a 2018 interview with the CBC, that if current discounts continued, her province’s industries would stand to lose about $7.4 billion in revenue.