Alberta invests in First Nations energy projects

This fall, Alberta’s new United Conservative government will bring in legislation to create a Crown corporation, called the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation, supported by CAD $1 billion to help First Nations invest in major energy projects such as pipelines.

Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson will consult First Nations groups over the summer to better inform the legislation when it comes forward and the board of the Crown corporation will have First Nations representation.

During the election campaign, Premier Jason Kenney had promised that, should he win, his government would fund the corporation with CAD $24 million over the first four years to give legal, technical, and financial advice to First Nations looking to initiate or participate in energy projects, as well as CAD $1 billion to provide financial backstops and loan guarantees.

At his announcement, Premier Kenney said the corporation addresses a historic imbalance, adding that for too long some First Nations did not have the financial means to get commercial rates of credit. "(Some) have not had the same advantages. They don't have the balance sheets quite frankly to be partners in projects like TMX (Trans Mountain pipeline expansion). The idea of the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation is to help them get that financial capacity," he said.

Grand Chief of the Treaty 6 Nations Wilton Littlechild said the discussion was about growing the economy, but not development for its own sake. "We also heard concerns, of course, about is it possible to have sustainable development and promote respect for Mother Earth at the same time. 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 those successful First Nations that have been able to capitalize on that opportunity," he said.

Chief Aaron Young of the Stoney Nakoda-Tsuu T'ina Tribal Council said the talks were promising, "We are now at the table where we can come together and solve our own problems and move forward.”