Manitoba Metis group taking province to court over cancelled hydro deal
Published Wednesday, March 28, 2018 9:21PM EDT
The Manitoba Metis Federation is planning to take the provincial government to court to uphold a 2014 agreement that would see the organization receive nearly $70 million for supporting a handful of upcoming hydro projects.
Last week, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced he would be cancelling the Turning the Page Agreement, a 2014 deal which would give $67.5 million to the MMF to resolve several land claims over a number of transmission projects.
At the time, Pallister referred to the payment as “persuasion money” to a special interest group. The MMF says Pallister’s comments were shocking and disrespectful.
“It's like it was written on the back of a napkin and then the premier came out into a scrum and tried to throw the MMF under the bus,” said Jason Madden, lawyer for the MMF, told reporters on Monday.
Last week, nine of the 10 Manitoba Hydro board members resigned, saying the board reached an impasse with Pallister over Hydro Manitoba’s bottom line and Indigenous issues. Pallister says the resignations came because he was putting a stop to the deal.
Lawyers for the MMF say Pallister is simply trying to cover up the real reason the board left: Pallister’s leadership.
"This is the position of one individual who has taken the position that he is the king,” said David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation. “There (are) no kings in this country, I'm sorry.”
The group hopes to take the government to court to determine if the 2014 agreement is legally binding. Lawyers for the MMF say they will file the paperwork shortly and would like to be in court as soon as possible.
In response, Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen released the following statement:
"The Manitoba government will continue to stand up for the rights and best interests of all Manitobans, today and into the future. We have received communications from Metis people that share concerns over future rights."
One of the several projects in the agreement is a transmission line to Minnesota. A group of landowners opposing the location of the line want the project put on hold due to the deal between the government and the MMF.
"Manitoba hydro appears to be using public resources to make payments to reduce opposition to this particular transmission line and the coalition just thinks that's wrong,” said Kevin Toyne, lawyer for the Southeast Stakeholders Coalition.
Lawyers for the coalition have applied to the National Energy Board requesting a halt to the process and want the incoming Manitoba Hydro board to investigate the deal.
With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Jeff Keele