Alberta First Nations invest in power project; loan backed by Alberta government

Alberta Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson (centre) stands with First Nations leaders at the Cascade Power Project announcement.

Six Alberta First Nations are investing $93 million for an equity stake in a new natural gas power plant.

Their participation in the Cascade Power Project near Edson, west of Edmonton, is being backed by a loan guarantee from the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp., or AIOC.

The Crown corporation was set up by the Alberta government to help Indigenous groups invest in natural resource projects.

The loan guarantee for the Cascades plant is the first one the corporation has provided since its inception last November.

The investment is being made through a holding company owned by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, Enoch Cree Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, O'Chiese First Nation, Paul First Nation and Whitefish Lake First Nation.

Cascade is being developed and will be operated by Calgary-based Kineticor Resource Corp. at a cost of $1.5-billion.

The company says it will supply eight per cent of Alberta's electricity needs once it starts up in 2023.

“It is one of the most exciting social and economic developments of our time and it points not just to a better future of coming generations of Indigenous people, but to a fairer, a more equitable and a more united province and a better future for all of us,'' Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told a news conference Wednesday.

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis said the deal is “transformational'' for the First Nations involved and “creates the national blueprint for Indigenous communities to acquire ownership in major energy and infrastructure projects.''

Opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley said the Cascades investment is good news, but problems with the AIOC remain.

“Only certain First Nations can qualify for the loan guarantees offered by the AIOC and the scope of economic development included is far too limited,'' she said.

“True economic reconciliation would ensure greater self-determination by Indigenous groups of the types of projects they would like to support as they move forward. I would encourage the premier to work with Indigenous partners to improve the AIOC.''

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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