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Coalition of Indigenous bands looking to buy 51% stake in TMX pipeline

Last Updated Oct 14, 2019 at 2:02 pm MST

FILE: Pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline are unloaded in Edson, Alta. on June 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

KAMLOOPS – A group representing 55 First Nations along the Trans Mountain Pipeline route wants to buy a majority stake in the pipeline.

The Western Indigenous Pipeline Group is looking to purchase a 51 per cent stake from the federal government, which bought the pipeline in 2018 for $4.5 billion.

The expansion could cost one-and-a-half times that. Trudeau’s Liberals have said the government doesn’t want to own it long term.

The Western Indigenous Pipeline Group is one of three Indigenous-led collectives that want to buy a chunk of the pipeline. Chief of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band near Kamloops Michael LeBourdais says this group is unique because the 55 bands that make up the group are located along the pipeline route.

“We bear all the risk, so these are the guys who are looking to have some equity benefit and environmental oversight.”

LeBourdais, who is also the director of the Western Indigenous Pipeline Group, says the pipeline goes right through his reserve and they’ve never had major issues.

“It’s operated very well,” he said.

“We’re the ones that are most familiar with how the pipeline operates, we’re the ones most familiar with the operations staff that are out here all the time. They’re flying over, they’re driving by, they’re stopping in the office.”

There are other Indigenous groups making pitches but he thinks they’d be the frontrunner.

“We would be the lead because we’re the only First-Nations-populated structure that has an operator and a bank.”

LeBourdais says the group will work with whoever wins the election next week.