‘We’d rather go into business’

Relationship with Enbridge has brought economic prosperity, says Birdtail Sioux leader

The Birdtail Sioux First Nation’s economic relationship with Enbridge is a positive and encouraging blueprint for many others like it, according to Chief Ken Chalmers.

Chalmers, who has spent more than a decade at the helm of the southwest Manitoba-based First Nation, told the National Energy Board’s Line 3 Replacement Program hearings in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon that his community has enjoyed prosperity through its evolving partnership with Enbridge.

“We’re not here for compensation or a handout,” said Chief Chalmers. “We’d rather go into business.”

Enbridge’s proposed $7.5-Line 3 Replacement Program, the largest project in our company’s history, will present economic opportunities in communities across the Prairies as we replace one of our mainline right-of-way crude oil pipelines from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

Chalmers said he’s been working with Enbridge for more than eight years on behalf of the Birdtail Sioux. In that time, he said, the two sides have successfully worked together, with the Birdtail Sioux creating a joint venture company in the energy sector and “building up an economic engine for the community.”

“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “I don’t want a handout. I want an opportunity to sit with Enbridge, and see what value we can add to their company. There’s a certain loyalty you develop with men and women who want to work with you.

“This is a great opportunity,” he added, “for (First) Nations to get involved with the mainstream companies of Canada—and throw your ideas out there. I look forward to working with Enbridge . . . so far, our relationship with Enbridge is very good.”

The Line 3 Replacement Program represents the most extensive outreach to Aboriginal groups in Enbridge’s history, and we’re committed to providing training and employment to members of Aboriginal communities, as well as creating meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal businesses.

Our recently launched L3RP Aboriginal Training Program is designed to connect Aboriginal workers with future employment in the pipeline industry and related sectors. Since 2009, we’ve also signed more than $200 million in contracts with Aboriginal owned businesses, and nearly $8 million in Aboriginal community projects.

The NEB’s L3RP hearings will continue through Thursday in Winnipeg, and continue from Monday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 11 in Calgary.