Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says legislation is coming this fall to create a new Crown corporation to help First Nations gain ownership in oil and gas projects, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Kenney said the new Indigenous Opportunities Corporation would provide $1 billion to help First Nations, especially those smaller in size or located in northern Alberta, gain the financial backing necessary to get ventures off the ground.
“They don’t have the balance sheets, quite frankly, to be partners in projects like TMX,” Kenney said Monday, following a meeting with his cabinet and First Nations leaders from across Alberta.
“So the idea of the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation is to help them get that financial capacity, with some backstopping through instruments like loan guarantees.”
So far about three different Indigenous consortiums have indicated they are interested in buying a stake in TMX, including the Alberta-based Iron Coalition. While Kenney says they could access help through the new Crown corporation, he encouraged them to work together so the government doesn’t have to pick “winners and losers.”
Four of the leaders spoke to the media afterwards. They welcomed the chance to talk to the new government about both the challenges and economic opportunities.
“I believe we have a premier at the table with cabinet support that is willing to address the issues that we faced in the past,” said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.
“So my optimism is soaring right now as based on the interaction this afternoon.”
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Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild said participants in the meeting had a “very rich discussion” and talked about solutions with a focus on economic opportunities.
“We also heard concerns of course about is it possible to have sustainable development and promote respect for Mother Earth at the same time,” Littlechild said. “And I think clearly from our experience, the answer is yes.
“It’s not ‘no’ to any development or ‘yes’ to all development, we need to seek a balance. And that’s been the approach of successful First Nations that have been able to capitalize on that opportunity.”
Kenney said Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson will continue consultations on the new Indigenous Opportunities Corporation throughout the summer.
In addition to the $1 billion in capital, the UCP promised during the election to spend $24 million over four years on setting up the organization.