B.C. proposal aims to have First Nations own chunks of major projects – by Peter O’Neil (Vancouver Sun – January 19, 2016)


OTTAWA — A B.C. First Nations-led proposal to unlock billions of dollars in natural resource wealth across the country has received seed funding from the federal government, The Vancouver Sun has learned.

And if the First Nations Major Projects Coalition can persuade Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to go a step further and accept their biggest request — loan guarantees to allow aboriginal communities to buy equity stakes in major projects — that could lead to a historic breakthrough, say its backers.

The loan guarantee idea has been endorsed by the B.C. Business Council and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank. Both said the proposal could resolve one of Canada’s and especially B.C.’s most daunting challenge — how to get approval for pipelines, mines and other projects after a landmark 2014 Supreme Court of Canada expanded aboriginal land title rights.

“The development of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition is one of the most exciting — and important — developments in indigenous business in recent decades,” said institute spokesman Brian Lee Crowley.

B.C. Business Council’s Jock Finlayson said his organization supports the proposal in principle, even if a loan support program could pose risks for taxpayers if a project falls apart and the band is unable to repay its debt.

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