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This article was published 29/7/2019 (348 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — The federal NDP is pushing back on a Green party suggestion to have SNC-Lavalin connect First Nations to clean drinking water, as the parties jostle for left-leaning voters.
"In our North, we’ve seen too many examples where people are forced to live at the whims of private companies and its tragic results," NDP MP Niki Ashton wrote in a statement.
Green Leader Elizabeth May was visiting the British Columbia interior this month when she floated the idea of SNC-Lavalin being compelled to fix infrastructure on reserves.
The multinational engineering giant was the centre of a scandal over the winter when former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould revealed her Liberal colleagues had tried to effect a deal that would avoid the company being prosecuted on corruption charges.
That trial has not taken place yet, but May said that a guilty verdict could result in a court order to fix drinking water on First Nations reserves.
"Community service, for a large corporation, would be a very interesting approach," May told the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, arguing it would keep the firm’s Canadian employees working.
"This is an obvious place where we can get a lot of work done that doesn’t break the bank on the federal taxpayer," she said.
Ashton, who was unavailable for an interview Monday, represents Manitoba's North, including two reserves that are under boil-water advisories.
She argues May’s proposal "opens the door to privatizing water," comparing it to Omnitrax’s management of Churchill’s port and railway, as well as plans surrounding LifeFlight air ambulances.
"Safe, reliable drinking water for First Nations is not a charity or community service project — it’s about human rights, constitutional obligations and respect for treaties," Ashton wrote.
May has stressed that First Nations would own and control the water systems involved, and that SNC would not turn a profit from the projects.
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