Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lawyer Says Alberta Consult Plan Could Make Benefits Agreements Harder

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Lawyer Says Alberta Consult Plan Could Make Benefits Agreements Harder

Article excerpt

Alberta plan could make benefits deals harder

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EDMONTON - An Alberta government proposal to regulate how energy companies negotiate benefits agreements with aboriginal bands could make it harder to work such deals out, says a lawyer whose firm assists in such talks.

A discussion paper, released by the government last week, suggests that a levy should be applied industry-wide to help bands pay for the work involved in setting up such deals.

It also suggests reversing current practice by recommending that all such deals be made public. That could deter companies from entering into them at all, said Neil Reddekopp.

"The confidentiality is generally a request of our industry partners and it's something that our clients agree to," said Reddekopp, whose firm is currently helping about six bands negotiate benefits agreements with energy companies. "I have a hard time seeing this call for disclosure as anything more than an indirect way of discouraging this type of agreement."

Energy companies frequently negotiate so-called community benefits agreements with aboriginal bands on whose traditional lands they wish to operate. The deals may include cash for community purposes, promises of local employment, environmental agreements or dispute settlement mechanisms.

They are not intended as compensation, said Reddekopp.

"What they're doing is assisting communities deal with massive changes forced on communities."

Making such deals public would allow bands to point to other settlements during negotiations, something that would effectively create a tariff, said Reddekopp.

He said the situations are too individual to benefit from standard settlements and throwing other examples into the mix during talks would just confuse matters. …

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