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The United Conservative government has brought forward Bill 14 as part of its mandate to improve relations with Alberta’s Indigenous people.
As part of this pledge, Indigenous nations will be given $1 billion in loan guarantees to help kickstart Indigenous involvement in crucial resource projects. Over the next four years, the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (IOC) hopes to play a vital role in carrying out that for the province.
The IOC will not explicitly provide capital for start-ups projects but will instead focus on providing the technical and financial expertise needed to start a business and access any existing grants.
The IOC, said Premier Jason Kenney, will allow Indigenous people to “get in the game and benefit from the resources that lie under the lands that were first inhabited by their ancestors.”
Alberta’s Indigenous community deserves a government that will help create opportunities, generate prosperity, and renew the entrepreneurial spirit for many struggling to make ends meet.
The IOC was one of Premier Kenney’s campaign promises made leading up to his election victory over Rachel Notley and the NDP this past spring.
After forming government with a landslide majority, Premier Kenney met with First Nations leaders and received “an overwhelming consensus in favour of economic opportunities, also entailing responsible resource development.”
This past summer, Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson met with more than 150 key stakeholders to discuss the benefits of a renewed partnership under the IOC.
In a statement, Minister Wilson said, “This new Crown corporation is a bold and innovative way of building relationships with Indigenous communities to get natural resource projects moving forward and get Alberta’s economy back to work. The returns on these investments can help fund the community programs and services the Indigenous communities want.”
Echoing his comments, Premier Kenney explained, “We want to empower Indigenous communities so they can lift their people out of poverty and become full partners in prosperity. An Alberta that remains strong and free is one where all can take full advantage of its abundance of natural resources that have enriched this province for decades.”
Indigenous leaders weigh in
Herb Lehr, the president of the Metis Settlements General Council, was also on board with the new initiative saying, “The Métis people of Alberta have long been involved in the resources sector, and are pleased to see this type of proactive work from the province.”
Calvin Helin, the president of Eagle Spirit Energy Holding Ltd and long-time advocate for Indigenous involvement in the resource sector, stated, “It is no secret that there is immense interest from the First Nations of this country to own big resource sector projects. This initiative will go a long way to accomplish that.”
While many leaders were on board with the change, including Stephen Buffalo, the president and CEO of the Indian Resource Council, some, like Treaty 8 Grand Chief Arthur Noskey, are skeptical.
While Noskey has yet to comment on anything specifically, he has expressed his concerns with the UCP before their election earlier this year.
Arthur Noskey is taking a step back approach to the IOC agreement, and this is not the first time Noskey has been skeptical of the Kenney government in the past.