Hargrave defends Indigenous investment fund after losing out on millions

Crown Investing Corporation Minister Joe Hargrave shared that the First Nations and Metis Fund was meant to encourage and engage Indigenous people in the full economy despite the government losing over $8 million from the project.

For Hargrave, he said the most important aspect was about creating success stories and not about making money. This comes after the Saskatchewan NDP stated that the move was a gamble on taxpayer dollars.

Minister Hargrave said it was developed to give people a leg up in the economy, but also presented risks when considering problems like the downturn in the oil and gas sector and the downturn in potash prices.

“It was set up by the former government and they knew it was higher risk. We knew when we took over it was still a higher risk,” suggested Hargrave. “But we had to do something to encourage First Nations communities across the province to get involved.”

When looking at the creation of jobs, the minister said there was around 84 to 165 jobs throughout the project, but wasn’t sure if those were through investments from the Sask. Party government or the NDP government in power when they brought in the fund.

He feels the fund wasn’t meant to be a job creator.

“It was about creating that opportunity for them to go further down the road. It has encouraged them to take those additional steps to get involved in larger projects.”

Opposition critic Cathy Sproule feels otherwise.

Sproule said when the program was established in 2005 by the NDP government at the time, the intent of the fund was to help create jobs and support small-scale, business-type investments.

However she said the choices made by today’s government didn’t create enough success.

“I’m not sure what the minister means when he says engagement,” she stated. “If it means handing a First Nation $1.8 million to buy shares in a welding company in Weyburn, maybe that’s engagement.”

“I don’t think that would be my definition of engagement.”

She added that doesn’t mind not making money from a program like this fund, but said she doesn’t like losing millions of dollars from loans granted by the Sask. Party from the program either.

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