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

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

The influenza vaccine will be available at no cost starting Monday in Alberta. “The more that we can avoid influenza-related tests, emergency visits and hospitalizations, the stronger our system will be to support those with COVID-19 and all other health needs," says Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Hinshaw urges Albertans to get flu shot as COVID cases jump by 332

Alberta’s central zone now has 132 active COVID-19 cases

learning
Stettler Learning Centre well into new season

“It’s definitely been a year of growth and a year of change.”

Vegetables from Rocyosa Vegetables in Clive. (Facebook photo)
Bashaw Farmers Market grew this year, despite COVID-19

More vendors and market goers than ever

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Most Read