A $1-billion fund established last year to support Indigenous participation in major projects won’t have any projects to back if the circumstances that led to the cancelling of the Frontier oilsands mining project this week continue, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned on Wednesday.
In a speech at the Indigenous Participation in Major Projects conference in Calgary that heavily criticized “green left urban militants,” Kenney insisted his government is the one that has the best interests of First Nations at heart because it supports building major energy projects.
He blamed uncertainty created by environmental activists for the decision by Teck Resources Ltd. last Sunday to withdraw its application for the $20-billion oilsands mine, just days before the federal government was expected to announce a ruling on whether or not it could proceed.
“We can create greater access to capital but if the folks that succeeded in shutting down Teck continue, there won’t be deals to be made,” Kenney said. “There won’t be opportunities or jobs to be created.”
He announced that the Woodland Cree First Nation in northwest Alberta will receive a $187,688 grant — the first approved under the $10-million Indigenous Litigation Fund announced last year — to intervene in support of Alberta’s constitutional challenge of the federal government’s Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act.
“I think here in Alberta we can point the way forward because we understand in Alberta that poverty is not the path to reconciliation,” he said.
Blood Tribe Chief Roy Fox, chairman of the Indian Resource Council that sponsored the conference, praised the province for its programs to help Indigenous projects get off the ground and criticized federal bureaucrats who have stood in the way of economic development opportunities in the past.
“Now is the time to assert our political and business leadership capabilities and reduce the poverty that plagues many of those that rely on us,” he said.
Chief Ouray Clark Crowfoot of the Siksika Nation said most Indigenous investment in the oil and gas sector has been in the upstream production sector and said the next logical step is to look at midstream and downstream assets like pipelines and refineries.
In the provincial throne speech on Tuesday, Kenney’s government said it is prepared to invest directly in the resource industry if that’s what it takes to boost Alberta’s wellspring industry.
But he didn’t mention the pledge in his speech at the conference and left without speaking to reporters.
Dan Healing, The Canadian Press