May 21 (Bloomberg) -- The Canadian government is poised to announce steps to win support from aboriginal groups for pipelines such as Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway, according to two people briefed on the matter.
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford plans to announce that his department will set up a new branch office based in British Columbia to oversee discussions with aboriginal groups, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The announcement may take place as early as next week, they said.
The branch will be part of the Major Projects Management Office based in Ottawa that was created in 2007 to support regulatory reviews of resource developments.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet has until June 17 to rule on the C$6.5 billion ($6 billion) Northern Gateway project, which would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to the Pacific Coast. While crude producers say the route is needed to ease bottlenecks that are depressing the price of Canadian heavy oil, aboriginal groups have raised concerns about the risk of spills, with some saying the government hasn’t adequately consulted them.
Rickford’s announcement will address recommendations made in December by Douglas Eyford, a lawyer appointed by Harper to review aboriginal concerns about resource development. In his report, Eyford recommended building on the Major Projects Management Office model to establish a “sustained presence of senior officials on the ground in British Columbia” to coordinate government engagement with aboriginals.
“Aboriginal peoples must be partners in everything we do, from ensuring the safety of our pipeline system to protecting our marine environment from incidents,” Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Rickford, said in an e-mail. “Announcements in response to the special representative’s report will be forthcoming when the government is in a position to do so,” he said, referring to Eyford.
Any measures the government announces in response to Eyford’s report would be designed to enhance engagement and collaboration with aboriginals, rather than boost support for any particular project or commodity, McCluskey said.
“Northern Gateway remains committed to re-engage and consult with First Nations and Aboriginal communities and to build on progress already made,” Ivan Giesbrecht, a Vancouver-based Enbridge spokesman, said in an e-mail, adding the company’s priority is to work with existing and future aboriginal equity partners.
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