NEWS

Enbridge taps Jim Prentice to rescue Northern Gateway First Nations talks

03/05/2014 12:37 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT
Enbridge has tapped former Conservative cabinet minister Jim Prentice as its point man to resuscitate stalled negotiations with First Nations in B.C. and Alberta over the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, as the company works to meet hundreds of conditions set out by the National Energy Board.

"I am doing this because I believe that First Nations should be full partners in resource development and they should be owners of projects like the Northern Gateway," Prentice said in a statement Wednesday.

"This project can bring jobs, economic opportunity, community development and educational opportunities to First Nation Canadians. This can be achieved while protecting the environment and respecting First Nations' environmental priorities," Prentice said in the written statement.

A report of the Joint Review Panel recommended in December that the federal government approve the project subject to 209 conditions.

For Enbridge, the positive report was one step in the process to getting the pipeline approved.

"We made it our first priority to reach out in a respectful way to Aboriginal communities… to further build trust," said Al Monaco, President and CEO of Enbridge Inc. in the statement.

"We believe Jim Prentice is uniquely suited to fulfill that promise."

Prentice served as Indian and northern affairs minister as well as environment minister under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He currently works as senior executive vice-president and vice chairman of CIBC. A spokesperson for Prentice told CBC News he will receive "no additional compensation" for taking on this new role.

During a speech to the Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa last week, Prentice made the point that big projects, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline, are dead in the water without real efforts to involve First Nations.

"There will be no oil pipelines to the West Coast without economic partnerships with First Nations," Prentice told the audience.

The federal government is expected to make a decision whether to approve or reject the proposed pipeline before the end of June.

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