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Thank you to the Chair, Chief Roy Fox, to Chief Crowfoot and Chief Gale, and to all the members of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition for being here today, all of the Chiefs and Councillors, and thank you to folks from Blackfoot and Treaty 7 Nations for welcoming me here today on your traditional territory.
You just mentioned our late friend, Jason Goodstriker. I want you to know that he was mentioned and remembered very specifically in the Speech from the Throne that opened Alberta's legislature yesterday afternoon. In particular we recognized and welcomed the presence of Tiffany Goodstriker to recall his legacy, his gift to Alberta.
He was a man who was passionate about defending the interests of his people, the Kainai people in particular, but Indigenous people across Alberta and Canada in general. He was a true leader in the revival of Indigenous culture on the Prairies through pow-wow, but also in fighting for prosperity for First Nations people, as he did as an active member of the IRC, and as an employee of Total Energy, and as a man who did everything he could to ensure that First Nations would benefit from responsible resource development. We continue to try to follow in his footsteps. Thank you for remembering him.
You, too, are all standing up for First Nations' right to participate in and benefit from the development of our natural resources.
Now, there's a lot of outside pressure and misinformation, and even intimidation, by a small number of urban green left militants purporting to speak for First Nations. I believe more and more they are misappropriating the voice and the cause of Indigenous people. By publicly repudiating those attempts to steal your voices, you're demonstrating tremendous courage and leadership in standing up for the true and legitimate interests of your communities. It’s an interest that is grounded in preservation of the environment of which your ancestors have been custodians for millennia, but at the same time helping to do everything possible to move your people to opportunity and, in many cases, from poverty to prosperity.
On behalf of all Albertans, I want to welcome all the Chiefs and Indigenous leaders from across Canada who are attending this conference here in Calgary. This hotel, I know, is a great example of Indigenous enterprise. I often say that our first entrepreneurs were our first peoples on these lands. The ancestors of today's Aboriginal Nations were the first to ply the riverways of Canada with canoes. In northern Alberta those canoes were sealed by bitumen, by the way. And they would trade goods up and down the riverways across the country. They were trading people. They understood the value of partnerships, and through that they created resilient communities.
The timing of your conference could not be better. Canada is at a crossroads where three vitally important issues intersect: our economic future as a successful producer and exporter of resources, our responsibility to contribute to the global fight against climate change and be environmentally responsible, and our duty to advance reconciliation by making Indigenous Canadians full and equal partners in our country's economic growth and prosperity.
The debate over these complex and disputed issues has been simmering in our courts and legislatures for years. And Alberta has, in some ways and at some times, been ground zero for the debate. That's because our province is the heart of Canada's energy industry and home to the third largest oil reserves on earth. It's also because our province has a large, young, fast growing Indigenous population with a huge stake in the future of development.
Now that debate has boiled over from coast to coast, creating big economic and social disruption. But I think we here in Alberta can point the way forward, because we understand that poverty is not the path to reconciliation, and that opportunity must be at the heart of legitimate efforts at reconciliation. And I want to commend visionary Aboriginal leaders in this province for having understood that for a very long time, including Chief Roy Fox.
Friends, we now have a situation where a growing number of First Nations across Canada understand the potential of responsible resource development to move their people from poverty to prosperity. The green left urban militants who are trying to shut down Canada's energy industry and landlock this country do not seem to appreciate that the significant majority of Canadian First Nations are located in remote regions of the country where there is no service industry to speak of. There are no manufacturing jobs and there is little in the way of high-tech or information technology jobs.
What is there on these lands first inhabited by the ancestors of Indigenous people? Resources. Resources with an inestimable value. Canada, with 178 billion barrels of proven and probable reserves of crude oil – most of that situated in this province – with a current notional global market value of $10 trillion.
According to the International Energy Agency, global demand for that resource will continue to grow for at least the next two decades, they project by 10 per cent between now and 2040. But the same agency projects that even in a much lower consuming scenario – their lowest consumption scenario – a scenario which they say would be fully compliant with policies to enact the Paris climate treaty – would see the world consuming 67 million barrels of oil a day in 2040, two decades from now.
So the question for us as Canadians is not whether or not that energy will continue to be in demand as we see growth in other forms of energy, but the question is where will that energy come from? Will it come from Canada with the highest human rights, labour and environmental standards on earth? Or will we abandon global energy markets to the world's worst regimes?
Let's look at what happened this week. Teck Resources Ltd. canceled its application for a proposed $20 billion bitumen mine in northern Alberta that would have created 7,000 construction jobs, 2,500 high-paying permanent jobs, hundreds of those would have been filled by Indigenous people in northern Alberta. It would have generated $55 billion of estimated revenue for the Alberta government to fund programs like health care, education and social services, including for Indigenous Albertans. And it would have generated $15 billion in revenue for the federal government.
It also would have generated enormous benefits for local First Nations, all 14 of whom had signed agreements supporting the Teck Resources Frontier mine. Including, I am proud to say, this past week, final agreements that had been signed by the Mikisew Cree First Nation. Thank you to Chief Archie for his visionary leadership, as well as the Fort Chipewyan Athabasca First Nation. Thank you to Chief Allan Adam for his leadership. And thank you to Minister Rick Wilson and his colleague Minister Jason Nixon for their tremendous work coming to this positive conclusion.
When I said that I believe Alberta is becoming something of a model for reconciling these different issues, I mean exactly this. It is no secret that Chief Adam, amongst Alberta First Nations leaders, has had a particular focus on environmental concerns and preservation, and understandably so. It is also true that his, like other nations, understands that there must be a path forward economically through responsible resource development.
Chief Adam, in his February 23rd statement before the Teck mine application was withdrawn, said that, "Through collaboration and innovation, which were key elements to finding solutions in the outstanding issues, I am pleased to share the news that we have come to an agreement with the Alberta government on the project. After many productive discussions, the Alberta government has responded to our concerns with a comprehensive and meaningful package of action items.
"I am now confident that this project is a net benefit to my community and the entire region. The environmental and cultural mitigations agreed to are unprecedented for a project of this kind. Given the recent discussions with the Government of Alberta and their fresh and positive approach, we reconfirm our support of the project and encourage the Canadian government to approve the project without further delay."
Chief Adam wrote those words and signed that agreement, as did Chief Archie of the Mikisew Cree, because they understood the opportunity that this project represented for their people. It represented a future significant stream of revenue that would have been facilitated in part by our new Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation. It represented innovative ways of ensuring environmental and habitat protection, including co-management agreements on bison and other species. It represented the way forward, a balance between environmental and cultural protection, and economic opportunity and jobs, plus lasting revenues.
But it's over now. The project was cancelled on Sunday night, because of uncertainty created by uncompromising ideological opponents of any resource development.
So my question for the Jane Fondas and Leo DiCaprios of the world who have flown up to Athabasca Chipewyan Nation to say, "Leave it in the ground and shut down the oil sands" is: where are they now? What are they going to do? Are they going to go to their rich friends in Hollywood and raise billions of dollars to invest in a new industry in northern Alberta that can provide opportunity and revenue, and a future for the young people of those nations?
No. They'll forget all about it. They'll forget all about that community. And if generations to come in those communities end up living in poverty, if the social impact of that poverty is despair and addiction, what do they care? These people in Toronto and Vancouver who say, shut it all down and leave it in the ground, where is their concern? Where is their social responsibility for the social consequences of this?
This is why Ellis Ross, former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation on the west coast, who's now an elected member of the British Columbia legislature, refers to this as, quotes: "eco-colonialism." It’s southern urban Canadians who have no real understanding of, contact with, or regard for the social and economic consequences of what's happening in many First Nations communities can say no, no, no to any form of opportunity.
And I can tell you that the government, and I believe the vast majority of the people of Alberta, disagree with those zealots who want to close any opportunity for First Nations to become partners in responsible development of resources that have trillions of dollars of value, and which lie below the lands which their ancestors first inhabited. In the Government of Alberta, your nations and your communities have a partner that will bend over backwards, as we did in these two agreements, to get to yes, to find the balance.
Not only did Teck cancel its $20 billion proposed investment this past week, something else happened. The government of Vladimir Putin in Russia announced a planned $150 billion investment by companies in developing offshore oil and gas in Siberia and the Arctic. We are shutting down our resources because of political pressure from a small number of overwhelmingly urban militants. While a regime that has spread warfare and conflict, whose political opponents domestically seem to disappear at a high level of frequency – a country that doesn't have a shadow of our commitment to environmental protection, human rights, Indigenous rights, labour rights – will be massively expanding its energy consumption.
So to the David Suzukis of the world and their fellow travellers, to the Pam Palmateers and all the rest of them, if you succeed in shutting down Canadian energy and locking out First Nations from the chance at prosperity, you will not reduce by one barrel the amount of energy that is produced or consumed around the world. All you will do is shift wealth from Canada and Canadian First Nations to OPEC dictatorships and Vladimir Putin's Russia.
Friends, that does not create a better world. And the key partners in fighting back against this campaign must be our First Nations people. Isn't it interesting? I saw an article last night that $150 billion roughly of proposed energy projects have been cancelled in recent years in Canada, including a bunch of LNG, recently Teck, of course Energy East, Northern Gateway and so many others. And that's almost exactly the amount of money that will be invested in new energy development in the Russian federation.
Friends, back in 2013 when I was the federal employment minister, I spent a week travelling up what would now be known as the Coastal GasLink route in British Columbia, starting in Kitimat where I first met Chief Ellis Ross. We had breakfast. Brilliant man who, like so many of you, was seeking any economic opportunity. He entered into a agreement with the ALCAN Aluminum plant in Kitimat to get many of his young people employed and trained. I went up that pipeline route, spent a whole week meeting with leaders and grassroots members of the nations in northern British Columbia, and I heard nothing but support for the prospect of these projects.
In fact at that time in 2013, seven years ago, they were looking at Northern Gateway. They were looking at Coastal GasLink, of course, LNG Canada. They were looking at the big Petronas project, $40 billion. They were looking at a prospective Chevron project. There were about 10 competing prospective major projects, and now they're down to one. Now they're down to one.
When I went up that pipeline route the leaders of the First Nations were concerned, because I was offering them additional federal training dollars to get Indigenous people, especially youth, trained up for those good jobs. They said look, Minister, you're offering us training dollars. The B.C. government's offering us training dollars. All these different companies are offering us training dollars. It's an embarrassment of riches. We don't know which projects are going to come through, but we're not going to have enough people to take all these good jobs. There was a real air of excitement.
I went to Houston, which is at the centre of Wet'suwet'en territory in northern B.C. I attended a potluck where the matriarchs and Elders of the community came and with passion endorsed this project, Coastal GasLink, seven years ago because of the opportunities that it would present.
I met young people who were taking training programs, waiting for the jobs to come and to start. What happened to those young people? What are they thinking when they look at these protests trying to take away their shot at a future where they can stay home and enjoy the dignity of work and the thrill of opportunity?
We have these people on TV say this is going to destroy the environment. A 36-inch gas pipeline? Chief Fox, don't a lot of your people have gas pipelines going to their homes to heat them? Isn't that how we operate in this cold northern country? The folks who are opposed to that pipeline, do they want to stop all the gas pipelines? What are we going to do then, go back to burning wood? Is that good for the environment? This is ridiculous, folks.
Those matriarchs, the ones I met, had been removed as hereditary leaders because their support for prosperity was opposed by a small tiny minority. There are 20 elected First Nations councils up there. In the Wet'suwet'en territory there have been 15 elections in the past six years in their five communities, every single time returning council majorities that support this project.
Yes, we have an obligation to respect hereditary leaders. Yes, they have a special traditional custodial role. Yes, we must listen to all voices. At the same time, when there have been years of good-faith efforts at consultation between proponents, the Crown and First Nations, between First Nations leadership and their membership. When there have been clear efforts at legitimate accommodation. When there will be demonstrable benefits. When there are negligible environmental impacts. When there is poverty and a chance at the dignity of work. Then, surely, we must find a way forward where we can say yes to opportunity and yes to the environment and yes to Indigenous legal rights.
We must do so. I believe the vast majority of the Wet'suwet'en people want leadership that will ensure that they have a future. We will do whatever we can to support that. That is why, for example, that we created the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
Now, I want to tell you, at the last election, Albertans knew we were in a really tough fiscal situation. We're going to be seeing that tomorrow's budget. But notwithstanding that, the single biggest fiscal commitment that we made as a party, and now as a government, was a billion dollars in backstop through the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
Now, that wasn't necessarily an obvious thing to do. I cast my mind back 25 years ago, maybe even 15 years ago. Could you imagine a political party saying to Albertans, please elect us, our single biggest fiscal commitment is going to be to help First Nations make investments?
There's been a change. There's been a coming together. That is the spirit of reconciliation. I never have once been criticized by Albertans for making that choice. We did it because we know that for many First Nations it is very difficult to obtain credit, equity and financing. The banks are not easily accessible for borrowing, partly because the anachronistic Indian Act makes it all but impossible for bands to use land or assets as collateral. Our provincial government can't change the Indian Act, so we went around it to create a completely new vehicle for capital formation by First Nations: the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
It is the first facility of its kind in Canada. It's backstopped by a billion dollars of the faith and credit of the Alberta Crown. It will be a game changer. If we can demonstrate with you that it succeeds, we will expand it.
It will make credit and capital accessible at commercial rates to Indigenous communities to get an ownership stake in major projects from which people can benefit. It will support Indigenous participation in commercial projects that produce sustainable returns and establish long-term partnerships with private industries.
Stephen Buffalo is on the board, by the way, along with several of our province’s top investment professionals, including chair Cody Church. They're all donating their time and expertize to make sure the AIOC operates on a rigorous commercial basis and succeeds in helping First Nations' clients enter profitable transactions.
The AIOC has already been approached with potential deals, and you're going to be hearing about some big AIOC-backed First Nations energy investments very soon. I can tell you that the agreements with the Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan were predicated drawing on that backstop. But there's more, because we can facilitate deal making like that. We can make and create greater access to capital.
But if the folks who succeeded in shutting down Teck continue, there won't be deals to be made. There won't be opportunities or jobs to be created. And one of the things that represents a threat to the future of responsible resource development is a new federal law, Bill C-69. We call it the no-more-pipelines law. I want to thank Chief Fox for going and speaking at the Senate to express grave concerns about the uncertainty that would be created for future development if that bill was passed. Unfortunately it has been.
The Government of Alberta is launching a constitutional challenge against Bill C-69 through a reference at the Alberta Court of Appeal to say that it is our exclusive constitutional jurisdiction under section 92a of the Constitution to develop our resources, a critical power won by Peter Lougheed back in 1982. We want to ensure that we exercise that power in full consultation and partnership with First Nations.
We've also created a $10 million Indigenous Litigation Fund designed to level the playing field for First Nations in their fight for a fair share of Canadian resource development. You know why? Because I got so frustrated seeing the federal government fund a tiny minority of antidevelopment voices, and the great majority of pro-development voices had no resources to get to court to defend their people's interests. That's why we've created the Indigenous Legal Defense fund.
Recipients of this support do not need to be located in Alberta. Any legal action that helps Alberta develop resources and get them to tide water is eligible. I am very pleased to announce today that the first recipient of financial support from the Alberta's Indigenous Litigation Fund, is Alberta's Woodland Cree First Nation. I want to congratulate Chief Isaac Laboucan-Avirom. His community in northwestern Alberta has a massive opportunity to create jobs, business and wealth from resource development. Right now they're in consultations on major projects, including with Lesser Slave Lake area companies on a regional forest management plan.
The Woodland Cree First Nation has every reason to hope this could blossom into a brand-new revenue stream for their people, new jobs for their members and new long-standing investments for their community. Unfortunately, federal legislation Bill C-69 stands in the way. In fact, this particular federal law threatens to suffocate every new resource project and piece of critical energy infrastructure in all parts of Canada. That is why we are challenging it. I want to thank the Indian Resource Council for joining us in doing so.
There should be a test to determine standing in the assessment process to ensure that only those directly affected by a project can participate, but there's not. There should also be restrictions on federal ministers meddling in assessments, to limit political interference, like we saw on Teck, which has been chronic under the current federal government. But there aren't such limits. Decisions under the act should consider, as a top priority, the positive impacts of economic and social benefits of any project for Indigenous Peoples. But they don't.
As I say, Alberta launched a constitutional challenge against C-69 in September. And now I'm proud to say that the Woodland Cree First Nation is joining the fight. With help from the Indigenous litigation fund, their voice will be heard.
Politicians and activists in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver think they have a right to decide what's best for Indigenous people who live on the lands where Canada's resources are located. They have lots of influence and power, including much of the mainstream media, on their side. They're trampling the rights and freedoms of a majority of Indigenous communities who are pushing for new projects to lift their people up. It takes a special kind of arrogance to stomp on Indigenous communities and their futures like this, and to believe that Indigenous people should only be empowered when they happened to agree with someone else's political agenda.
The Government of Alberta completely rejects this approach. We are committed to meaningful reconciliation that says yes to projects that genuinely empower communities, amplify Indigenous voices, are consistent with the spirit of the treaties, nurture the hopes for a better future, while caring for the environment.
That, I believe, is exactly the mandate of the IRC. That is the vision of the government of Alberta. Together let us get it done.
Thank you very much.