Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A federal investment of $3 million to support clean energy technology and develop Calgary as an innovation hub may not have included specific commitments for Indigenous ventures, but that doesn’t mean “economic reconciliation in the energy sector” is not important.
“Reconciliation is something that every minister has embedded in their mandate letter, including economic reconciliation in the energy sector. Indigenous nations, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, it’s important that we have them as investors, as innovators, as people who work in the industry,” said Dan Vandal, minister of Northern Affairs, minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada (PrairiesCan) and minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.
Vandal was joined on the virtual announcement Jan. 19 by Randy Boissonnault, minister of Tourism and associate minister of Finance.
Those mandate letters were delivered on Dec. 16, 2021 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Every letter directs ministers to “implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to work in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to advance their rights.”
Vandal’s mandate letter also included a call for him to work towards improving Indigenous housing, but there was no specific mention for him to work towards economic reconciliation.
However, said Vandal, economic reconciliation “is incredibly important to the government of Canada.”
The federal investment of more than $3 million is to strengthen collaboration, advance emerging leadership, and attract private sector investment that will help grow businesses operating in Alberta's clean technology sector.
More than $2.1 million of this federal contribution will support an Energy Transition Centre in downtown Calgary. Federal funding will enable the University of Calgary and private sector partner Avatar Innovations to transform vacant office space in central Calgary into an innovation hub that advances the development of clean energy technologies.
It’s necessary work, said Vandal, as Canada moves toward a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
A recent Alberta Energy transition study suggests the clean technology sector could create 170,000 jobs and contribute $61 billion to gross domestic product by 2050 in Alberta alone.
A news release says the Canadian government is committed to helping Canadian businesses capitalize on this rapid growth and to ensure Canada is a leader in the development of clean technology solutions.
“Indigenous reconciliation is a cornerstone of energy development,” said Kevin Krausert, CEO and co-founder of Avatar Innovations, who was also part of the virtual announcement. “As we advance those opportunities, we look forward to including Indigenous peoples.”
Krausert said 15 scholarships for Indigenous participation in the Avatar Ignite program 2022 have been made available by Cenovus Energy and Suncor.
Avatar Ignite 2022, done in partnership with the University of Calgary, is an accelerator and training program for young professionals who want to be developed as leaders in oil and gas. It provides the opportunity to bring forward or become involved in the development of innovations and start-up companies or projects designed to address environmental and economic challenges faced by the industry.
“I would suggest the oil and gas industry presents one of the rare opportunities for true economic reconciliation in many rural communities of Canada,” said Krausert.
An additional $900,000 investment through PrairiesCan was also announced and will enable the Foresight Clean Technology Accelerator Centre to offer its accelerator programs in Alberta. Foresight will use funds to provide the training and investment attraction initiatives that clean technology organizations at various stages of scaling up need to grow and capture global market share.
“We are heavily invested in Indigenous engagements as part of all our work where we have capacity, and we know that Indigenous communities are interested in investing, learning and leveraging those technologies to live in and promote their communities as green communities as well,” said Foresight CEO Jeanette Jackson, who participated in the virtual announcement.
“Alberta has all of the key elements to grow its clean tech sector. This includes existing energy expertise, talented workforce, and emerging capabilities in energy transition. Our government is investing in Alberta business so that they can capitalize on those advantages,” said Vandal. “We’re on the right track for the economy, for the environment and for our people.”
Also participating in the virtual announcement were Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, University of Calgary Chancellor Deborah Yedlin and President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ed McCauley, and Cenovus Energy CEO Alex Pourbaix.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.