EDMONTON — United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney says an Alberta government led by him would set up a Crown corporation to help Indigenous communities invest in resource projects.
“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 the Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton on Wednesday.
In the leadup to the April 16 provincial election, Kenney has been hammering on the records of the Alberta NDP and federal Liberals on building new market-opening pipelines.
“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 said the UCP government would consult with First Nations about how to structure the Aboriginal Opportunities Corporation and ensure there is Indigenous representation on its board.
The UCP government would initially invest $24 million to set up the outfit, and set aside $1 billion to facilitate and backstop financing for Indigenous peoples who want to buy into pipelines and other resource infrastructure.
The funds would be re-allocated from the NDP’s $3.7-billion plan to ship more oil by rail, which the UCP has said it would nix.
Kenney said many First Nations support projects like the stalled Trans Mountain expansion to the West Coast, but do not have financial means to buy a stake and that opposing Indigenous groups have the support of well-funded foreign environmental organizations.
When asked whether his proposal would pit Indigenous peoples against each other, Kenney said it’s about evening the playing field.
“This is not just about getting a pipeline built. It’s not just in the strategic economic interests in Alberta. I also believe it is a truly moral cause,” he said.
“Reconciliation needs to be about more than just words and symbols. It needs to be about substance. It needs, in part, to be about helping to empower our First Nations communities to fully develop their social and economic potential.”
He says a Crown corporation would provide technical and advisory support to Indigenous communities. It could also provide loan guarantees or, in some cases, co-invested debt and equity lending from the Alberta government.
Indigenous entrepreneur Calvin Helin has proposed the multibillion-dollar Eagle Spirit oil pipeline between the oilsands and the West coast. He gave Kenney’s plan a thumbs up.
“No lip service but a real partnership with government,” he said on Twitter.
— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary
The Canadian Press