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Ottawa Won’t Offload Trans Mountain to First Nations While Legal, Political Risk Remains

March to Stop Trans Mountain Oil PipelineSally T. Buck/Twitter

The federal government won’t try to sell off the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the new Indigenous owners it hopes to attract as long as the project is beset by legal and political risk, a spokesperson for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said last week.

One of those risks evaporated last Thursday, when the Supreme Court of Canada rejected [1] British Columbia’s claim that it had the legal right to regulate the flow of heavy oil through its territory, The Canadian Press reports [2]. But the project still faces two more lawsuits, and “if either challenge succeeds in overturning cabinet’s approval, it would stop construction for a second time and put the entire project on extremely shaky ground.”

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While the pipeline is now under construction, the government is not officially accepting offers from the three Indigenous consortia that have expressed interest in buying a majority share. “When the political risks made it too difficult for the private sector to move forward, our government acquired the Trans Mountain expansion project and related assets,” said Morneau’s director of communications, Pierre-Olivier Herbert. And that’s the approach Ottawa is taking to eventually offloading the pipeline.

“We have been clear, however, that it is not our intention to be long-term owners of the project,” Herbert told CP.