Alberta Crown land proposed for sale not treaty land, Kenney says

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says the northern Alberta Crown land he proposes to sell if he becomes premier next year is not treaty land.

Treaty 8 grand chief calls land sale idea 'insulting'

UCP Leader Jason Kenney spoke to the media Thursday at an end-of-session news conference at the Alberta legislature. (CBC)

United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney says the northern Alberta Crown land he proposes to sell if he becomes premier next year is not treaty or reserve land.

"It's Crown land, and it's land that belongs to Albertans which is not being put to economic use right now," Kenney said Thursday, in response to a reporter's question at an end-of-session news conference.

"The notion that all of northern Alberta should suddenly be turned into a park, I think, runs contrary to our entire history as a people, where we seek in a responsible way to allow for the development of our resources, including our agriculture resources."

Kenney first raised the issue in late November at the Rural Municipalities Association convention in Edmonton. At the time, Treaty 8 leaders said no sale would happen without their consent. They also took issue with Kenney's characterization of the land as "unproductive."

Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey called Kenney's land sale proposal "insulting." (CBC)

Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey said on Thursday that Kenney could face legal action if he tries to implement the plan.

"I guess we have a major court case in the making if he does come into power and if he doesn't pull this plan," Noskey said.

Kenney said Mackenzie County council wants to expand the land auction undertaken by the government of then-premier Ed Stelmach 10 years ago. The UCP leader first mentioned the idea last month as one measure to help balance the provincial budget. 

Asked about the comments by Treaty 8 leaders, Kenney said Indigenous people did not raise any concerns over the land sale a decade ago.

Noskey said no one raised concerns because they didn't know about the sale until after the fact. Noskey said Kenney's proposal is "insulting," adding that no one from the UCP ​has tried talking to Treaty 8.

Asked about Kenney's statement that the property isn't treaty land, Noskey said Treaty 8 was signed in 1899, six years before the creation of the province of Alberta.

'It's always been our lands'

"So whose land was it prior to the province assuming authority over it?" he asked. "It is our land. It's always been our lands."

Kenney said the proposed land sale would be one way to grow the province's economy.

"We would obviously listen to First Nations, and other stakeholders," he said.

Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan said he was "appalled" that Kenney, a former federal cabinet minister, doesn't understand the rules on First Nation consultation.

"Whenever we do anything on Crown land, you want to cut a tree, you want to dig a hole, you have to do the consultation with the appropriate First Nations in the area," he said.

"That's just standard policy, federally, provincially, across the country. I can't believe he didn't understand that."

Feehan said no one from the UCP asked him a single question during the fall session, which suggests they don't care about Indigenous issues.