December 12, 2018

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'Desperate' Pallister not telling truth, mismanaging issues: 'disappointed' former Hydro chair Riley says

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Sanford Riley</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Sanford Riley

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2018 (264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sandy Riley, former chairman of Manitoba Hydro, said Premier Brian Pallister and his government have behaved in a "desperate" manner in the way in which they have attacked him and other members of the utility's board for their decision this week to resign their duties.

In an interview, Riley said Pallister has spun "untruths" about the events that led up to the board's resignation Wednesday in a blatant attempt to cover up his own mismanagement of pressing issues facing Hydro.

"I am just so disappointed in the way this government has decided to play this," Riley said. "Although I guess I should be surprised.... I'm just so disappointed that we've come to this stage."

In a scrum Wednesday, Pallister said the board of the utility, led by Riley, resigned after his cabinet vetoed a $67.5-million land claims settlement with the Manitoba Metis Federation that had been negotiated by Hydro. In fact, Riley said the decision to resign had been made earlier in the week when he learned that Pallister planned to relieve him of the Hydro chairmanship and move him to another Crown corporation board.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2018 (264 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sandy Riley, former chairman of Manitoba Hydro, said Premier Brian Pallister and his government have behaved in a "desperate" manner in the way in which they have attacked him and other members of the utility's board for their decision this week to resign their duties.

In an interview, Riley said Pallister has spun "untruths" about the events that led up to the board's resignation Wednesday in a blatant attempt to cover up his own mismanagement of pressing issues facing Hydro.

"I am just so disappointed in the way this government has decided to play this," Riley said. "Although I guess I should be surprised.... I'm just so disappointed that we've come to this stage."

In a scrum Wednesday, Pallister said the board of the utility, led by Riley, resigned after his cabinet vetoed a $67.5-million land claims settlement with the Manitoba Metis Federation that had been negotiated by Hydro. In fact, Riley said the decision to resign had been made earlier in the week when he learned that Pallister planned to relieve him of the Hydro chairmanship and move him to another Crown corporation board.

Riley said he had been trying to get a face-to-face meeting with Pallister for months to discuss the MMF agreement and concerns about the eroding debt-to-equity ratio at the utility. Riley said he had a meeting with Pallister last summer when he made a presentation to a cabinet committee. After that, however, Pallister would not meet.

Riley confirmed that last Friday, Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen wrote a letter to the Hydro board confirming that the premier would meet with Riley immediately following the release of the Public Utilities Board rate application decision, expected in April. Riley said he and the board, which had already discussed a plan to resign, agreed to hold off until that time.

Then, Monday, Riley said he got a call from a "senior government official" asking if he would be prepared to move to another Crown corporation board. "I told them no, that was not what I signed on for," Riley said. "I was stunned.... It was obvious that they were trying to move me out of Hydro."

Following that call, Riley talked with other members of the board and the decision was made to resign. "There was a complete lack of communication and a lack of leadership by the government," said Riley. "There was no good faith."

Riley said he is also quite shocked that the government would allege that he was involved in a perceived conflict of interest with the MMF land-claims settlement.

Government sources said the premier had become increasingly uncomfortable with the fact that Riley did not recuse himself from the final board decision on the MMF, despite having been involved in several high-profile initiatives with the organization. This included his membership on a blue-ribbon strategic investment committee struck by the MMF to provide advice on what to do with the proceeds of federal land-claims settlements. The committee included such luminaries as former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

Riley said the committee has never formally met, and he disclosed his involvement to the Hydro board before discussing any details of the proposed settlement.

"This (land-claims) agreement is completely separate from that (strategic investment committee) agreement," he said. "For the government to now suggest that I was involved in some sort of conflict of interest is ridiculous.... I can't believe how desperate this government has become."

Riley, a prominent member of the Progressive Conservative party, would not voice an opinion about whether he continues to have confidence in Pallister's leadership of the party and the government. He said he actively worked to get Pallister elected, largely because he believed that after 17 years, it was time to replace the former NDP government.

Will Pallister continue to have his support as a PC party member? "I'm not going to talk about that," Riley said.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

Dan Lett

Dan Lett
Columnist

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

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History

Updated on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 4:26 PM CDT: Updates

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