EDMONTON, AB (April 3, 2019): In what he described as a “historic game changer” and a “huge win-win” for both Indigenous Canadians and Alberta’s ailing oil and gas sector, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney announced that his party, if elected, will create an Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation to facilitate First Nations financial participation in major resource projects, including pipelines.
“We need to do something dramatically different to end the stalemate that has left Alberta energy landlocked and has led to a jobs crisis in our province,” Kenney said at a news conference held at the Enoch First Nation near Edmonton.
“The Trudeau-Notley alliance has killed two pipelines, put two more on life support, and is threatening our future with anti-pipeline laws like Bill C-69 and C-48. We need a radically new approach from the failure of the past so we can get a fair price for our energy, and we need to move beyond empty words to give real, concrete meaning to reconciliation with Aboriginal Canadians.”
Kenney underscored how most First Nations in Western Canada support environmentally responsible resource development, but that their interests have been undermined by a small minority of typically foreign funded opponents of energy development.
“For too long all the legal, political, and media debate around energy and the environment has been dominated by the minority of anti-development groups. It’s time to give a real voice to those First Nations who want to be partners in environmentally responsible resource development so that they can help move their people from poverty to prosperity,” Kenney remarked. “This is the moral cause of our time: moving beyond empty gestures to empower Aboriginal Canadians to take charge of their own destiny.”
The UCP Leader pointed to several Aboriginal-led initiatives to advance both oil and gas pipelines and other energy infrastructure projects, including:
- The Eagle Spirit group’s effort to build a $17 billion oil pipeline from Alberta to Hyder, Alaska
- The Frog Lake Energy Resources Corporation, which produces 2,000 barrels a day of crude oil and is looking to buy more oil-producing properties outside of its territory along with stakes in tank farms and pipelines, according to Chief Joe Dion
- Several First Nations who are pursuing the possibility of co-ownership of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, with discussions being facilitated by the Indian Resource Council, amongst others
- The Haisla First Nation who, amongst many others, have partnered with LNG Canada to advance the first major west coast LNG export facility
- The Fort Mackay First Nation purchase of a 34% stake in a major Suncor oil tank farm for $350 million
“These are just some of the growing number of First Nations who see resource development as a key to their social and economic future,” Kenney said. “But we need to move this momentum to a whole other level where Aboriginal people become real owners of major energy projects.”
Kenney committed that if elected, a United Conservative government will consult with First Nations in establishing the Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation (AOC) as a Crown Corporation to facilitate and backstop up to $1 billion in Aboriginal investment in natural resource projects and infrastructure, including pipelines.
“We will consult with First Nations on the design and mandate of the AOC, and ensure Indigenous representation on its board,” Kenney said. “The AOC will provide technical and advisory support to Indigenous communities interested in pursuing financial participation in energy projects and will offer a range of financial instruments on a commercial basis. We will be open to partnering with the Government of Canada and other provincial governments in expanding the fund”.
Kenney said that the AOC would provide:
- Access to technical support on major project opportunities including feasibility and pre-feasibility studies, deal evaluation, and project support.
- Access to capital markets through effective loan guarantees on government backed projects – and in some cases, co-invested debt and equity lending from the Alberta government on a cost-return or shared-upside basis, depending on the deal structure.
- Practical legal and economic backing through the entire deal life-cycle to pro-development First Nations who want to move toward being long-term strategic partners with industry and the Alberta government, supporting and sharing in the long-term upside of Alberta’s infrastructure and resource development.
“Through the Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation, a UCP government will renew the Alberta government relationship with First Nations on the basis of self-determination, trust, and mutual respect. It will also provide shared economic opportunity between First Nations, the Alberta government, and industry.”
“Aboriginal Albertans were our first entrepreneurs. They want to benefit fully in the wealth generated from their traditional, treaty, and reserve lands. But too often they lack the financial equity that they need to make that happen. The Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation will bridge the gap between the ambition of First Nations to be full commercial partners in our energy industry, and their limited financial capacity,” Kenney said.
“It should be absolutely clear that we are not going to get pipelines built and get our energy to global markets unless and until we have strong alliances with First Nations. The Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation is a bold, innovative way of building those relationships to get pipelines built and get Alberta’s economy back to work.”
Kenney said that a UCP government would provide an initial investment of $24 million over four years to establish the AOC and would earmark $1 billion to facilitate and backstop financing for Aboriginal financial participation. These funds would be re-allocated from the NDP government’s $3.7 billion rail lease, which the UCP is committed to cancelling.
Kenney also outlined other United Conservative commitments to ensure the inclusion of Aboriginal Albertans, including:
- Supporting legal action for pro-resource groups in Indigenous communities with a $10 million fund
- Adding economic development rights to the preamble of the Alberta Aboriginal Consultation policy to explicitly consider support from Indigenous communities for projects that affect them
- Working with the federal government to streamline how Indigenous people access key services such as education and health care, including ensuring Indigenous students have access to a provincial education system (paid for with federal dollars) that enables students to succeed. For example, a United Conservative government will replicate the successful education partnership in the agreement between Whitecap Dakota First Nation and Saskatoon Public Schools signed in 2014. There, within one year of the agreement being in place, the percentage of Whitecap students in grades 1- 4 reading at or above grade level rose from 40 per cent to 76 per cent.