New Indigenous Crown corporation to offer loans, advice
A group of northern B.C. and Alberta First Nations want to build a $100-billion oil and gas corridor to the northern Pacific coast.
The Siksika Nation in southern Alberta wants to produce its own power with a hydroelectric dam.
Alberta Métis settlements are eyeing up solar farms, geothermal energy and oil and gas drilling.
A major barrier to these projects is coming up with the equity to get started.
“What First Nations want to do is they want to help themselves,” said Calvin Helin, president and chairman of Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings, in an interview at the Alberta legislature on Tuesday.
He’s spearheading an effort by 35 First Nations to build pipelines from Fort Mcmurray to Grassy Point, B.C.
“They don’t want government handouts. They want to control their own futures — but to do it in a way that is kind to the environment.”
In its first bill of the fall sitting, the Alberta government said it’s attempting to lower financial barriers by creating a new Crown corporation, called the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
The first-of-its-kind Crown corporation would extend loans, loan guarantees and advice to Indigenous groups to start natural resource projects. It could be a model for the rest of Canada if successful, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday.
Flanked by First Nations and Métis leaders at a news conference at the Canadian Energy Museum in Leduc, Kenney said creating a Crown corporation will keep government away from “picking winners and losers” when deciding which resource development projects should receive taxpayers’ backing.
“I’ve never seen this type of a commitment by a government anywhere, in particular with the province of Alberta, where we’re looking at concrete development here,” said Siksika First Nation Chief Joe Weasel Child at Tuesday’s announcement.
If passed, the bill would funnel $1 billion to the corporation between 2019 and 2023 to issue loan guarantees, lend money, purchase shares or other equity and enter into joint ventures or partnerships with Indigenous groups planning to start “natural resource projects and related infrastructure.” What qualifies as a “natural resource project” will be decided later in regulations. Kenney said it could extend beyond oil and gas projects to hydroelectricity or forestry.
According to the bill, “Indigenous groups” could be First Nations, Métis settlements or groups, organizations owned by these groups, or any other entity the Indigenous relations minister decides should qualify.
And, the groups eligible for money or loans can be from outside Alberta, as long as their projects “advance Alberta’s economic interest,” Kenney said.
He hinted that Indigenous groups in British Columbia would be good partners to obtain more buy-in for oil pipelines extending to the Pacific coast.
Herb Lehr, president of the Métis Settlements General Council, said settlements want to develop oil and gas and renewable energy projects, but are prevented by lack of funds.
“This is perfect for us,” he said.
If the settlements can partner with private investors, they could also ensure land is reclaimed to its traditional state, he said.
The Crown corporation will cost $6 million a year to run, and be governed by a board of up to nine directors, some of who will be Indigenous. If Bill 14 passes, the Crown corporation should be up and running by the end of spring 2020.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Tuesday the opposition is likely to support the bill in principle. However, it will be place a burden of debt on Indigenous groups, she said.
They want to control their own futures — but to do it in a way that is kind to the environment.” calvin Helin, with eagle spirit energy Holdings
Premier Jason Kenney makes an announcement toward a transformational commitment to reconciliation with Bill 14, at the Canadian Energy Museum near Devon, Tuesday.