Op­por­tu­nity knocks

New In­dige­nous Crown cor­po­ra­tion to of­fer loans, ad­vice

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - JANET French

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

Ed Kaiser/post­media

Premier Jason Ken­ney makes an an­nounce­ment to­ward a trans­for­ma­tional com­mit­ment to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Bill 14, at the Cana­dian En­ergy Mu­seum near Devon, Tues­day.

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