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

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

best
Heartland Stationer’s lands ‘Stettler’s Best Kept Secret’ award through the Stettler Board of Trade

Successful long-time business will be starting a new chapter with a name change and relocation

lights
Mark your calendars for the annual ‘Festival of Lights’ holiday events

Annual celebration raises funds in support of patient care at the Stettler Hospital

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Most Read