This Nov. 3, 2015 file photo shows the Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to, in Steele City, Neb. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nati Harnik, File

This Nov. 3, 2015 file photo shows the Keystone Steele City pumping station, into which the planned Keystone XL pipeline is to connect to, in Steele City, Neb. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Nati Harnik, File

First Nations raising capital for Keystone XL pipeline stake have results of U.S. election to worry about

Six nations in Alberta and Nekaneet, a nation in Saskatchewan, represent the first traditional land-use studies

By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker

Nekaneet First Nation Chief Alvin Francis regards the recently signed memorandum of understanding with TC Energy as an opportunity for First Nations to get “our foot in the door into corporate Canada.”

Francis is president of the newly created Natural Law Energy (NLE), which has Nekaneet First Nation join forces with Ermineskin Cree, Montana, Saddle Lake Cree and Louis Bull Tribe to pursue an equity interest in the TC Energy-owned Keystone XL pipeline project.

Discussions to form NLE began in late spring, he says, and there are hopes to bring Samson Cree and Siksika First Nations on board as well. Preliminary talks have begun with those two nations.

The six nations in Alberta and Nekaneet, a nation in Saskatchewan, represent the first traditional land-use studies undertaken by TC Energy in relations to Keystone XL.

Francis says he’s been talking to the Calgary-based TC Energy for four years about getting involved in the project. He says when first elected he told TC Energy that he wanted more than the $50,000 to $60,000 each year that TC Energy invested in his community for training and other needs through a letter of agreement.

“I said, ‘What I want from you guys is a life-cycle agreement of the Keystone XL because that will make a big difference to my community knowing they have something coming in the long term,”’ he said.

Francis believes that Canada’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and prioritizing reconciliation finally tipped TC Energy in the right direction.

And the five nations coming together helps the cause.

“As a group we have, I guess you would say, more negotiating power with TC Energy if we get (the First Nations) together,” said Francis.

The MOU has been “percolating for a number of months,” said Terry Cunha, spokesperson for TC Energy. He says MOUs are not made publicly available.

Details for the definitive agreement are expected to be ironed out in the next four weeks, he says.

“While NLE will have a minority stake on the pipeline, both TC Energy and NLE agree that the investment will be substantial and have a positive impact for each of the nations who signed on as equity partners,” said Cunha.

Francis says NLE is in the process of finding investors and going to financial institutions to borrow money. He adds that the equity amount is based on a “percentage per $100 million.” He didn’t say what that percentage amount was.

Francis says discussions have been ongoing with the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation for the past three months and an application was filled out about a week-and-a half-ago. AIOC is a Crown corporation created by Alberta’s United Conservative Party government to offer loan guarantees for Indigenous-led natural resource projects.

“For sure we’re very pleased to see the MOU and things moving forward in a productive way. We, of course, welcome more conversations and engagements as the process and partnership proceed and get solidified,” said AIOC CEO Alicia DuBois.

DuBois stressed that AIOC does not get involved at the MOU-stage, but instead takes an active role when there is a “much more firm partnership” and once a “term sheet” is presented by the Indigenous group. The term sheet outlines the type of loan and the value of the loan required in order to purchase the investment or equity piece.

“There are many instances when access to that capital will not be granted by the financial institution without our guarantee and all parties know that,” she said.

AIOC offers $25 million to $250 million in loan guarantees per project.

DuBois says for AIOC to give the nod to a project it has to be “commercially viable. In other words, there’s a very low risk tolerance.”

The Keystone XL pipeline project does not meet that low risk tolerance.

“Say the project and partnership was at the point they were ready to paper the deal, we would not be in a position to offer a guarantee at this time, because there is a huge risk in respect to the way the American election may go. We don’t want to put Alberta taxpayer dollars at risk,” said DuBois.

DuBois’ comments come after a statement issued by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney lauding the MOU between NLE and TC Energy, saying it “affirms the shared importance Indigenous people and Alberta’s government place on projects such as Keystone XL, which will bring the jobs and steady economic benefits to lift more people onto solid financial ground — now and for years to come.”

Alberta has a $1.5-billion equity investment in Keystone XL.

DuBois said AIOC is a Crown corporation guided by its expert management board and at arms-length of the government.

“Now the (Keystone XL) project itself is one we find very interesting and in the event the parties get to the place they really solidify their partnership and some of those more risky aspects of the deal are settled or known to us and we are able to work with them, this is the type of project we certainly would be interested in supporting,” said DuBois.

Francis understands the risks involved with Keystone XL. Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to cancel the presidential permit for the project should he win the office. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a 1,947-km pipeline capable of delivering 830,000 barrels per day of crude oil from Hardisty, Alta. to Steele City, Nebraska, where it will connect with TC Energy’s existing facilities to reach U.S. Gulf Coast refiners.

“In November when the U.S. election comes up, of course we’re worried about that. But we still have to keep working at this to make more sense for First Nations, because if this project goes through, how’s that going to look upon us if that does work out? It’s going to look as if you’re helping First Nations to be sustainable,” he said.

Francis says the final agreement with TC Energy will not require membership ratification. It will be a simple matter of band council resolutions from each First Nation.

“Each (band) member should have a say, but in my belief, I think chief and council represent the whole First Nation,” he said.

Each First Nation-member of the NLE will share equally in the benefits from the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Be kind and wear pink for Pink Shirt Day

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Todd Hirsch. (Image: screenshot)
ATB vice president gives financial forecast to Ponoka chamber

Predictions for reopening of the economy and recovery outlined

Most Read