Enbridge offer doesn’t sweeten deal for Wet’suwet’en

  • Feb. 15, 2011 7:00 a.m.

An offer from Enbridge last week to give First Nations an equity stake in the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline has done nothing to sway the opinion of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.

The company unveiled their Aboriginal Economics Opportunity Package last Wednesday.

“The design of our benefits offering reflects years of consultation with First Nations and Metis communities along our existing and proposed pipeline rights-of-way,” said Enbridge spokesperson Jennifer Varey. “We’ve looked really hard at finding ways of engaging First Nations and Metis irrespective of their experience with pipelines and the industry.”

The most significant part of the package includes an equity sharing proposal. Northern Gateway is offering 10 per cent equity ownership in the project, which is worth $5.5 billion.

Enbridge has said that they are committed to make arrangements to find required financing at favourable rates for eligible Aboriginal groups to get involved.

“The long-term financial benefits for participating Aboriginal shareholders will be significant,” said Varey. “Aggregate equity ownership is expected to generate approximately $280 million in net income to neighbouring Aboriginal communities over the first 30 years.”

She said that shareholders would see that income in the first year of operations, “income that could help support the priorities of their people.”

These benefits are determined on the basis of the project scope and unclassified capital cost estimate set out in the regulatory application filing with the National Energy Board. In the full execution phase, Varey said there will be a comprehensive classified capital cost estimate conducted which will result in a revision of the opportunity values prior to construction.

The package also includes a commitment to hiring as much local labour as possible and said Aboriginal employment is expected to comprise 15 per cent of the construction force.

A Northern Gateway Community Trust would also be established which would work out to one per cent of its annual pre-tax earnings contributed for local investment. It was not elaborated on how the trust would be available to communities in the company’s statement.

Reached for comment, Mike Ridsdale, environmental assessment co-ordinator of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, said the position of the Hereditary Chiefs remains unchanged on the company’s offering.

“The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs have clearly stated that they are opposed to the proposed [pipeline],” he said. “The recent announcement of the benefits package for First Nations by Enbridge has not altered our position at all … “Wet’suwet’en culture and livelihood is not for sale.”

He said that the Hereditary Chiefs still stand behind the statement that Enbridge is not allowed in Wet’suwet’en traditional territory.

He noted that they received information on the equity package just as soon as it was released to the media.

“Personally I think it’s a ploy by Enbridge to to put a little more pressure on showing they have good will and are offering a benefits package to the First Nations but in reality you look at it in the overall scheme of things, it’s not a real benefit for anybody. It causes detriment to our livelihood.”

He said that the equity offer would only put them in debt to Enbridge.

“You could just as easily secure equity by simply buying Enbridge stock,” he said. “It’s crazy for Enbridge giving First Nations something and in return is nothing in our favour.”