The Current

Jason Kenney is using 'economic outreach' to connect with First Nations, says columnist

Since settling in as Alberta's new premier, Jason Kenney has made a point of seeking support from local Indigenous communities via 'economic outreach,' according to political commentator Graham Thomson.

Alberta premier is working on plan to help First Nations gain ownership in oil and gas projects

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney sits with Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild during a meeting with First Nations chiefs and grand chiefs about increasing Indigenous participation in the economy. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press )
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Since ousting Rachel Notley, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has refocused his provincial government's relationship with First Nations, according to one political columnist.

"Notley tried to do it her own way through social licence, embracing Indigenous rights and embracing reconciliation and also doing more on the environmental front," said Graham Thomson, former politics writer for the Edmonton Journal who now contributes to CBC, iPolitics and Alberta Views.

By contrast, Kenney is placing a greater emphasis on "economic outreach," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Kenney is talking more about, 'I'll help you out if you're onside when it comes to the economy; if you're onside in terms of pipelines, I'm gonna help you."

Kenney is planning legislation to create a new Crown corporation this fall, which would help First Nations gain ownership in oil and gas projects, including the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. So far about three different Indigenous consortiums have indicated they are interested in buying a stake.

A decision from the federal government on the Trans Mountain project is due next Tuesday.

Approving the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has the potential to benefit the federal Liberals' fortunes in Alberta, but Canadian Press reporter Mia Rabson argues it will take more than that for the Trudeau government to win back Alberta's favour. 0:43

Following a meeting with Kenney, Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey spoke of his eagerness to work with the leader.

"I believe we have a premier at the table with cabinet support that is willing to address the issues that we faced in the past," said Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey.

"So my optimism is soaring right now."

Susan Delacourt, national columnist and Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star, says Kenney's tactic for increasing Indigenous participation in the Alberta economy stands out from others.

"I think Jason Kenney's talks with Indigenous groups were one of the most interesting developments we've seen in [leaders] trying to move people from an extreme position on one side — either for or against — to some place in the middle," she explained. 

To discuss pipeline politics in the scope of the government's Trans Mountain decision as well as how it could bleed into the fall election, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Graham Thomson, former political columnist for the Edmonton Journal, who now contributes to CBC, iPolitics, and Alberta Views.
  • Mia Rabson, energy and environment reporter for The Canadian Press.
  • Susan Delacourt, national columnist and Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


With files from CBC News. Produced by Idella Sturino and Max Paris. 

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