Close to $75,000 was spent on a signing ceremony involving Manitoba Hydro and Tataskweyak Cree Nation upon conclusion of a deal to partner in the development of the proposed Keeyask Dam, according to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
As well, lawyers and consultants billed the First Nation more than $250 per hour to aid it with its negotiations with Hydro. And when Hydro balked at paying more than $250, the band passed a resolution covering the rest, with amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars to several firms.
Colin Craig, Prairie Director of the CTF, said the information, received as a result of freedom of information (FIPPA) requests, highlights the need for full disclosure of the details of costs of negotiating partnership deals with Aboriginal groups in the construction of the Wuskwatim, Keeyask and Conawapa dams as well as a new hydro transmission line. Of the four projects, only Wuskwatim has been built; the others are in various stages of planning or regulatory approval.
Previously, Manitoba Hydro has revealed that the costs of these negotiations has totalled $224 million, but it has not provided detailed breakdowns of the costs.
Craig said the latest tidbits of information the CTF recently received are troubling.
He said the $74,757 spent on the Keeyask signing is "a huge, huge amount of money" given "there are serious poverty concerns in that community (Tataskweyak)."
More troubling, Craig said, are the revelations about how much consultants and lawyers were billing — "astronomical amounts" well over $250 per hour.
"It confirms what we’ve been saying all along that there’s a whole industry of consultants and lawyers that are just milking the system and making million and millions of dollars on all these negotiation costs," Craig said.
He demanded that the Selinger government investigate the matter and direct the Crown corporation to reveal cost details of its negotiations with First Nations. And he urged the public to request that the provincial auditor general investigate the matter.