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Expanding a provincial loan program will mean more opportunities for First Nations ownership in energy projects officials say.
The $250 million Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program was increased to $400 million Monday. The program gives loan guarantees for up to 75 per cent of a project for First Nations and Metis communities in Ontario. Eligible projects can include hydro electric projects, like the lower Mattagami river project . But it can also be used for solar or wind projects as well as increasing transmission capabilities in communities. Natural resources minister Michael Gravelle said there are numerous projects ongoing in Northwestern Ontario that can benefit from the program.
“It was a very successful program and it was one that truly has helped advance the opportunities for the aboriginal communities that are taking on these projects,” Gravelle said after the announcement in Thunder Bay on Monday. “We needed some more opportunity, more dollars, more capacity.”
What’s also needed is for those communities to have ownership of the project energy minister Chris Bentley said. Seeing economic benefits from construction jobs is one thing, but through Feed in tariff agreements, communities will be able to see an income stream over the long term.
“They’ll want an ownership participation and stake in those projects and this guarantee program is going to be enormously helpful in making sure they can realize those benefits,” Bentley said.
Many communities still rely on diesel generators for power. Bentley is hoping the guarantee program will be able to help those communities as well.
Fort William First Nations chief Peter Collins said his community has four energy projects on the go already that could be eligible for the funding. There’s already one in the works with Lac Des Milles Lac but Collins said he can’t speak about it until some details are finalized. But any ownership or part ownership of a project would be good news for Fort William First Nation he said.
“We want to be a part of ownership. We want to be a part of the job opportunities. We want to be a part of the economy.”
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