Government plans to help First Nations, Métis groups get capital for resource projects
Premier Jason Kenney calls Bill 14 'a game changer' and a 'paradigm shift'
First Nations and Métis groups could soon have access to $1 billion in loans and loan guarantees over four years to start their own large and medium-sized resource projects.
Bill 14, introduced in the Alberta legislature Tuesday, would create the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC), fulfilling an election promise made by Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party.
The AIOC would be the only organization of its kind in Canada.
At a news conference Tuesday at the Canadian Energy Museum near Devon, Kenney called the initiative a "game-changer" and a "paradigm shift" that could help get a pipeline built to the West Coast.
"We're not going to get a pipeline built unless there is First Nations support and involvement," Kenney said. "And this helps to facilitate that."
- Legislation for new Indigenous Opportunities Corporation coming this fall
- Alberta's UCP would create Indigenous Crown corporation, help investments
Indigenous groups from British Columbia could tap into AIOC funds as long as the projects benefit Alberta, he said.
Kenney said most Indigenous communities support resource development. He said the communities that are still opposed are tired of the old model, where First Nations sign benefit agreements with resource companies.
"I think the game-changer for a lot of those First Nations … would be actually to have an ownership stake where they're no longer kind of marginal to the deal but they're in the deal," he said. "And this is what this is designed to facilitate."
Kenney said if the model is successful in Alberta, he plans to push the federal government to implement a similar program.
Chief Billy Morin of the Enoch Cree Nation welcomed the announcement, saying the initiative is needed.
"Alberta is known for oil and gas," Morin said. "And that's what going to keep us going, going forward."
Herb Lehr, president of Métis Settlements General Council, said communities have abundant oil and gas reserves but lacked the capital to develop them until now.
"We now have the opportunity to work with other people to develop the resources ourselves rather than trying to get into agreements with other energy players," Lehr said.
The Crown corporation, which the province intends to have fully operating by the spring, would have access to $1 billion over four years, mostly to provide loan guarantees for eligible groups to secure their own financing.
The AIOC would also give these groups access to technical and financial expertise to set up medium and large-scale resource projects.
Many of the rules governing how the AIOC would work have not yet been determined. Rules for project approval and how eligible groups could access funds would still need to be defined through regulation.
A future order-in-council from cabinet would determine how much capital to use for loan guarantees and how much would go toward direct loans and other mechanisms such as joint ventures and share purchases.
First Nations as defined by the Indian Act, Métis settlements, Métis organizations, entities defined by the Indigenous Relations minister, and organizations owned by these groups would be eligible to tap into the funding.
The government is currently recruiting the board of directors which will have up to nine members. A deputy minister will sit on the board as a non-voting member.
In addition to the $1 billion in capital, the government would allocate $6 million each year over four years to operate the AIOC.