Cheam Chief Ernie Crey welcomed the news Tuesday of the $4.5 billion federal buyout of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Kinder Morgan Canada’s assets.
“There was a promise made, and obviously it’s going to be a promise kept, that one way or another this pipeline would be built because it’s in the national interest,” Crey said.
The livelihood of the Cheam community “also depends on it succeeding,” and the deal injects a stabilizing element into a project that was teetering on collapse.
“I am happy with this morning’s announcement,” said Crey, who has been very supportive of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) in light of the potential economic spinoffs for the Cheam. “It bodes well.”
Once the KM sale is complete, Canada will continue the TMX construction on its own, with a view to selling it down the road once market conditions are more favourable.
The Chilliwack-area chief has been vocal on social media and in the mainstream press for several months trying to shoot down the notion that B.C. First Nations were united in lockstep in opposition to the expansion.
It’s not black and white, he argued, and there is no homogeneity on the pipeline issue, despite how it is being portrayed.
Crey wasn’t completely surprised either by the bailout decision announced by Liberal government Ministers Bill Morneau and Jim Carr.
“I knew the potential options they were facing, I just didn’t know which one they would settle on,” Crey said.
For those opposed to the pipeline twinning, including Indigenous leaders and environmentalists, the bailout probably came as a “big surprise, if not a shock,” he said.
“Some felt this was in the bag, and that it would be not built after all, but sadly for them it has been made clear this thing is going to be built,” Crey said.
As co-chair of the Indigenous Advisory & Monitoring Committee, a committee to undertake the monitoring of the pipeline during and after construction, as well as elected chief of Cheam First Nation, which has signed mutual benefit deals and employment agreements, Chief Crey has a decidedly different viewpoint than some pipeline opponents.
“Cheam formed partnerships with 13 companies involved in the pipeline construction process, and during the post-construction phase,” Crey said, adding some are national companies, while others are local.
Construction could get underway by this summer, and that would be welcome.
The training, the full-time employment, and the earnings the Cheam will realize as a result of TMX will be “driven back into the businesses” operated by individual band members, and band-owned ventures, Crey noted.