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A federally guaranteed Indigenous loan program is reconciliation progress, but only if it respects Indigenous agency


6 minute read

Roger Marten, right, Chief of Cold Lake First Nations, and Curtis Monias, centre, Chief of Heart Lake First Nation, speak after Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix announces an initiative focused on Indigenous communities. Photo from The Canadian Press.


By Resource Works

Indigenous communities are increasingly becoming partners and owners in major natural resource projects across the country.

Resource Works has been excited to be involved in that movement through our annual Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase, where we convene Indigenous experts to discuss Indigenous partnerships in major projects and across the Canadian economy.

Under a proposed federal program, even more, Indigenous communities could become partners and even owners in major natural resource projects, from oil to natural gas and liquified natural gas (LNG).

Back in 2010, the proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat offered a 10% equity stake in the project to participating Indigenous groups. Yet despite having significant support, there was also considerable Indigenous opposition to the project. Ultimately, the project was killed when Prime Minister Trudeau banned oil tanker traffic on BC’s northern coast.

Fast forward twelve years, and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) natural gas pipeline and the LNG Canada project are nearing completion. In fact, CGL finished laying the last of its pipe in the ground in October 2023, completing a truly herculean engineering task, the first energy pipeline to the coast in decades. Despite some Indigenous opposition, CGL has the support of the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the route and has offered an option for First Nations to purchase a 10% equity share in the pipeline.

Coastal GasLink will feed LNG Canada, the largest private sector investment in Canadian history. That project will turn CGL’s natural gas into liquid, where it can be shipped more densely to Asia to help replace coal, especially in industrial applications, and reduce global carbon emissions.

While CGL and LNG Canada near completion, two more proposals for LNG projects in BC are coming onto the scene. A historic first, these projects are led by First Nations: the Cedar LNG project near Kitimat from the Haisla Nation and Ksi Lisims LNG in Northern BC from the Nisga’a Nation.

A third LNG project, Woodfibre LNG, was approved by the Squamish Nation in the first-ever Indigenous environmental impact review and is now beginning construction.

Indigenous involvement – and leadership – in major energy projects has arrived. Indigenous LNG is Canadian LNG, and Canadian LNG has become Indigenous LNG. This is a global first.

Beyond natural gas and LNG, the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project from Alberta to Burnaby is anticipating completion in March 2024. The expansion triples the pipeline’s capacity, the only oil pipeline to Canada’s West coast.

While there has been Indigenous opposition to this project, there has also been support, including formal agreements and billions in contracting deals for Indigenous businesses during construction. In fact, several Indigenous groups are working to acquire an equity stake in the pipeline.

Historic restrictions in the Indian Act mean Indigenous peoples face enormous barriers in raising or borrowing money to finance equity partnerships. Yet the ability to purchase equity in major projects is to enter the big leagues of economic development and wealth generation.

The federal government is expected to announce a guaranteed loan program that will enable Indigenous Peoples to finally bypass these structural obstacles and purchase equity shares in resource projects. Alberta and Saskatchewan already have their own programs, and the federal government has a lot to learn from them, particularly Alberta’s Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.

Supporters of such programs point out that Ottawa, without spending a cent of taxpayers’ money, could backstop loans to Indigenous communities. It’s a low-risk mechanism and another way to support economic reconciliation.

Unfortunately, there is uncertainty about whether this federal initiative will allow all projects to be supported. There are reports that Ottawa will exclude oil and gas projects from the guaranteed-loan program, in favour of exclusively renewable and green energy projects.

Indigenous groups argue that they can make up their own minds on what to invest in.

Four Indigenous groups have told the prime minister: “This program cannot be driven by an ‘Ottawa-knows-best’ policy approach – the judgement of Indigenous Nations about projects to pursue must be respected. . . . We believe that this initiative is not only a practical step towards reconciliation but an opportunity to demonstrate Canada’s commitment to a just future for First Peoples.”

If this loan program is created, it should be up to Indigenous peoples to decide what they want to get involved in. If we are in an era of reconciliation, shouldn’t we empower Indigenous Peoples to be decision-makers?

We can do big things as a country when we partner with Indigenous peoples. But we need to ground our policies in a positive framework that builds agency.

For many Indigenous peoples, that starts with charting their own economic destiny, including in natural resources.

Margareta Dovgal is Resource Works’ Managing Director and Event Lead for the Indigenous Partnerships Success Showcase

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Premier Smith reacts to Liberal Government’s announcement on new methane reduction targets at COP 28

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Federal methane emissions targets: Joint statement

“Once again, the federal government is setting unrealistic targets and timelines. Infrastructure can only be updated as quickly as technology allows. For example, Alberta will not accept nor impose a total ban on flaring at this time, as it is a critical health and safety practice during production. Any regulation that completely prohibits this is putting lives at risk”

Premier Danielle Smith and Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz issued the following statement on the federal government’s proposed methane emissions regulations:

“The federal government has unilaterally established new methane emissions rules and targets to help win international headlines. Instead of building on Alberta’s award-winning approach, Ottawa wants to replace it with costly, dangerous and unconstitutional new federal regulations that won’t benefit anyone beyond Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault’s post-office career.

“Managing emissions from Alberta’s oil and gas industry is our constitutional right and responsibility, not Ottawa’s, and we are getting the job done. Using a province-led approach, Alberta has already reduced methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45 per cent – hitting our target three years early – and we’re just getting started.

“Meanwhile, not only is it illegal for Ottawa to attempt to regulate our industries in this manner, Ottawa also hasn’t even hit one of its past arbitrary and unscientific emissions targets largely because it has little to no credible expertise regulating the natural resource, agricultural and other industry sectors in this space.

“Ottawa could have helped us keep reducing emissions with joint incentive programs in line with Alberta’s Emissions Reduction and Energy Development Plan. It could have listened to the Supreme Court’s declaration that the Impact Assessment Act was unconstitutional and abandoned this kind of arrogant and ineffective scheme. Instead, these new regulations threaten our successful province-led approach and impede good work that’s already underway.

“Once again, the federal government is setting unrealistic targets and timelines. Infrastructure can only be updated as quickly as technology allows. For example, Alberta will not accept nor impose a total ban on flaring at this time, as it is a critical health and safety practice during production. Any regulation that completely prohibits this is putting lives at risk. A total ban would also be costly, resulting in shut-ins and loss of production.

“This approach will also cost tens of billions in infrastructure upgrades, yet Ottawa has provided virtually no financial support to do so. Thousands of Albertans could be put out of work in the coming years due to these costly regulations. A federal government willing to invest $37.7 billion into just three battery plants in Ontario and Quebec cannot credibly refuse to provide tax credits and financial incentives for producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan to assist with achieving a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

“For years, Alberta, not Ottawa, has done the hard work and achieved results. We strongly support reducing methane emissions and have invested tens of millions into developing these technologies. Minister Guilbeault must work with us, and not against us, to keep cutting methane emissions and charting a course for carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Given the unconstitutional nature of this latest federal intrusion into our provincial jurisdiction, our government will use every tool at our disposal to ensure these absurd federal regulations are never implemented in our province.”

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Alberta’s Methane Target Reached Early

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Gas processing plant in northwest Alberta, courtesy of EnergyNow


Courtesy of ENERGYminute
See more articles and infographics from ENERGYminute HERE

In a pat-yourself-on-the-back moment, Alberta’s oil and gas industry successfully achieved a 45 percent reduction in methane emissions, surpassing the province’s mandated target ahead of schedule.

Background: Alberta was the first province in Canada to commit to a 45 percent reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 2025, based on 2014 levels. Spoiler alert: Alberta achieved its methane mission three years early.

  • Their targeted approach to reducing methane emissions from flaring, venting and fugitives has become an example globally, earning national and international awards for its effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

Alberta strong: The government credited the early success to close collaboration with the industry, implementing early action programs such as carbon offsets, tough regulations for all facilities, and enhanced leak detection and repair methods.

Minister of Environment Rebecca Schulz highlighted that this made-in-Alberta approach not only achieved the goal three years ahead of schedule but also resulted in roughly  $600 million in savings for the industry compared to the proposed federal program.

Getting the job done: Alberta allocated $57 million from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction fund for methane emissions programs, including:

  • $25 million in rebates to companies adopting emissions reduction equipment.
  • $17 million supporting alternatives to detecting and quantifying emissions.
  • $15 million to help small- and medium-sized operators assess methane reduction opportunities.

Overall, the initiatives eliminated 16.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.

Looking ahead: Alberta is committed to building on this momentum and collaborating with industry experts to determine the next steps in their emissions reduction journey, aligning with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

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