The federal government is actively considering gifting the Trans Mountain pipeline to First Nations groups, Postmedia has heard from multiple sources.
“The possibility of giving the pipeline to First Nations (or at least a share of Trans Mountain) has come up at cabinet level,” a senior Liberal government source told Postmedia on Tuesday.
How the deal would unfold is that a part or all of the pipeline would be placed in a trust that would then use the proceeds to fund First Nations projects.
The source added that the deal will be fraught with problems because of how some communities have embraced the project and others actively opposed it.
“So what do you do, ignore the agreements with those who live along the line while rewarding the bands that aren’t on the route and who have been the most active in stopping the pipeline?” the source added.
On Tuesday, Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the government was not appealing the Federal Court of Appeals ruling that nixed the pipeline and that they would instead re-launch consultations with 117 First Nations in British Columbia.
The idea to gift the pipeline, which the government purchased for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan in May, apparently did not originate from the Prime Minister’s Office, but from First Nations groups themselves.
“That’s one of the things that we laid out for them early on,” said Whispering Pines Chief Michael LeBourdais in a phone interview with Postmedia. “We put that forward very early but we never developed that model, how that would work,” he adds.
Whispering Pines is one of the B.C. communities that signed a mutual benefit agreement with Kinder Morgan. They’ve also been actively scouting financiers to assist them in purchasing some or all of the pipeline from the government.
“I won’t say no to the pipeline, whether it’s a gift or purchasing some of it,” says LeBourdais.