CALGARY – Indigenous leaders say they hope other companies will follow the lead of Cenovus Energy Inc. after it pledged to give $10 million per year over the next five years to support housing in six northern Alberta communities near its oilsands operations.
Shirley Paradis, a councillor for the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, says the money is needed because the community’s housing resources are stretched to the limit and government funding is inadequate to address the growing population.
Vern Janvier, chief of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, says his community is hurting after watching its revenue fall by two-thirds over the past six years because of a lack of activity in the surrounding oilsands industry.
Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix says the $50 million is expected to be used to build about 200 new homes in the communities, employing local people who will gain experience and training in the process.
He says the program could be extended by five years with another $50 million if it meets Cenovus’s performance expectations.
Cenovus pledged earlier this month to spend $1.5 billion with Indigenous businesses over the next 10 years, in addition to $3 billion spent since the company was formed in 2009.
“I think the average person does not realize how much employment the First Nation and Indigenous communities get out of companies like Cenovus,” Pourbaix said.
“This really is just furthering that alignment between their communities and our company.”
Two years ago, Suncor Energy Inc. signed agreements with the Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation to take a combined equity interest of 49 per cent in the oil storage facility built for its Fort Hills oilsands mine.