(Reposted from the Daily Express on August 3 2019 – Original article here)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU has been criticised with his Liberal Government looking set to sell a controversial oil pipeline to an indigenous organisation – drawing the ire of environmental activists and other native groups.
Mr Trudeau is under heavy pressure going into this month’s Federal Elections, with both the left (NDP) and right (Conservatives) threatening to outflank him.
The Canadian Prime Minister is set to enter talks in a multi-billion dollar deal to sell the Trans Mountain oil pipeline to an indigenous-led group. Mr Trudeau, who has been under heavy electoral pressure ahead of October’s crucial federal vote, was criticised after greenlightinh the expansion of the West Canadian pipeline last month. Hours earlier, he declared a climate crisis – leading to accusations of hypocrisy from several environmental groups.
Project Reconciliation, which is made up of several indigenous groups in the province, are aiming to submit a $6.9billion offer to secure a majority stake in the pipeline.
The group said the investment will deal with the growing issue of indigenous poverty, which has traditionally seen the country’s resources – and the wealth earned from them – end up in the hands of others.
A 51% stake in the pipeline would siphon significant profits to the group.
Mr Trudeau is now being condemned in some quarters for trying to protect his premiership at the cost of the environment.
Trudeau came under fire (Image: GETTY)
Indigenous protests (Image: GETTY)
The news comes as a new CBC poll of 500 people suggests that indigenous voters are abandoning the Liberal Party.
The poll revealed 41 percent of respondents voted for Mr Trudeau in 2015, but only 24 percent plan to this time around – leading to panic within the party.
Mr Trudeau’s government could see some positive fallout from the purchase which acts as a buffer against voters complaining over broken promises on aboriginal rights and the environment.
Public policy expert Ken Coates said: “The greatest hope the government can have is they neutralise this topic.
“Imagine if a multinational gets ownership of the pipeline, or an Indigenous consortium. The Indigenous (option) is way less provocative.”.
The embattled Prime Minister will see the pipeline triple in capacity to produce 890,000 oil barrels per day when the expansion is complete.
It will also increase tanker traffic in British Columbia – where the pipeline is primarily situated – from five to 34 a month.
Despite Project Reconciliation being on board, there is still significant opposition from within the indigenous community.
Managing director Stephen Mason admitted: “There is a vocal minority [against the project]. The majority are in favour especially if they have material ownership and a place at the table that allows them to be involved with environmental aspects.
“If we own it, chances are we can quiet down the opposition.”
Chief Leah George-Wilson of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, an indigenous group against the pipeline expansion, said: “Our sacred obligation is that we are stewards of this land, this water and our people.”
Huge protests met the decision (Image: GETTY)
Trudeau was accused of pandering to the oil industry (Image: GETTY)
He added that the group will appeal Mr Trudeau’s controversial decision.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs insisted that environmental and indigenous groups would continue to dig their heels in against it.
Mr Phillip added: “Who owns the pipeline is not the issue. It’s what goes through the pipeline.”
The opposition is also being supported by British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who represents the NDP in the province.
Mr Trudeau approved the pipeline last month after his government took the unprecedented step of purchasing the project to ensure its survival.
Canadian environmental group Ecojustice commented: “The reality is that the government can put Canada on the path to a safe climate future and fulfil its legal responsibility to protect endangered killer whales, or it can put this pipeline through.
“It cannot do both.”