By Jake Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) announced on September 9, 2020 that it has provided a loan guarantee to a consortium of six Alberta First Nations to enable their participation in the Cascade Power Project (Cascade).
Created in 2019, the AIOC is meant to allocate up to $1 billion in financial support, like loan guarantees, to qualified First Nations vying for an equity position in major resource projects.
The 6 First Nations to invest in the project are Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, O’Chiese First Nation, Paul First Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation. Together they will invest $93 million in the Cascade project.
Cascade is a 900MW combined cycle natural gas fired power plant located near Edson, AB. The project, developed and operated by Kineticor Resource Corp., is set to be completed in 2023 and is estimated to supply 8 percent of Alberta’s electricity needs.
The transaction is a culmination of intensive efforts by multiple parties including Kineticor Resource Corp., OPTrust and Backwoods Energy Services (Backwoods), which is owned by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.
“It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t straight forward. It took a lot of back and forth,” Premier Jason Kenney said. “But the chiefs who led this project and the (Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation) board and executive worked through this and found a solution that ensures a reasonable level of risk for taxpayers and a reasonable level of equity and cash flow for the First Nations. It’s a win-win.”
“It is one of the most exciting social and economic developments of our time and it points not just to a better future of coming generations of Indigenous people, but to a fairer, a more equitable and a more united province and a better future for all of us,” said Kenney.
Chief Tony Alexis of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation added, “It is my great hope that what we have accomplished becomes a national blueprint for how major energy projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline and other infrastructure projects can be structured and financed on commercial terms to include Indigenous people. We are certainly willing and ready to share our experience to assist and advance the case for Indigenous asset ownership.”
“Securing this deal is transformational for the First Nations involved and creates the national blueprint for Indigenous communities to acquire ownership in major energy and infrastructure projects. Thank you to the AIOC, Kineticor, OPTrust and particularly my team at Backwoods Energy Services for the tireless work in structuring and negotiating this transaction on behalf of the six First Nations communities,” said Alexis.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley also spoke on the announcement by saying, “While investment in the Cascade Power Project is good news, the problems with the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation remain. Only certain First Nations can qualify for the loan guarantees offered by the AIOC and the scope of economic development included is far too limited.”
“True economic reconciliation would ensure greater self-determination by Indigenous groups of the types of projects they would like to support as they move forward. I would encourage the premier to work with Indigenous partners to improve the AIOC,” Notley said.
Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.