December 12, 2018

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MMF sets two-week deadline for Hydro deal

Métis federation president willing to go to court -- or accept olive branch

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>MMF President Dave Chartrand hopes Premier Brian Pallister changes his mind about cancelling a legal agreement with the MMF; if not, the federation will take the province to court.</p></p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

MMF President Dave Chartrand hopes Premier Brian Pallister changes his mind about cancelling a legal agreement with the MMF; if not, the federation will take the province to court.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2018 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen is seeking to hit the reset button on the provincial government’s $67.5-million rift — and looming legal confrontation — with the Manitoba Metis Federation.

Cullen and cabinet have two weeks to change Premier Brian Pallister’s mind about cancelling an agreement between Manitoba Hydro and the MMF — if not, the federation will take the province to court, MMF president David Chartrand said Friday.

“We’ll meet in two weeks to see if the reset button is done,” Chartrand told reporters after he and Cullen met in the minister’s office Friday morning at the Manitoba legislature.

“That’s all the time I can give. We’ve waited too long to find our place in Confederation,” Chartrand said, adding he would accept an olive branch from the premier if one was offered, despite the animosity currently between them.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2018 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen is seeking to hit the reset button on the provincial government’s $67.5-million rift — and looming legal confrontation — with the Manitoba Metis Federation.

Cullen and cabinet have two weeks to change Premier Brian Pallister’s mind about cancelling an agreement between Manitoba Hydro and the MMF — if not, the federation will take the province to court, MMF president David Chartrand said Friday.

"We’ll meet in two weeks to see if the reset button is done," Chartrand told reporters after he and Cullen met in the minister’s office Friday morning at the Manitoba legislature.

"That’s all the time I can give. We’ve waited too long to find our place in Confederation," Chartrand said, adding he would accept an olive branch from the premier if one was offered, despite the animosity currently between them.

"Premier Pallister is going around in St. Laurent and other places, trying to make me look like the bad guy. If he wants to slap me, I’ll slap him back."

Friday’s meeting had been set up weeks ago and was to have included Manitoba Hydro representatives. Thursday afternoon, Cullen and Chartrand accused each of cancelling the meeting, which was then hastily reconvened, without Hydro.

The dispute erupted last month, when nine of the government’s 10 hand-picked Hydro board members quit, saying the premier had not met with the board for 16 months to discuss the Crown corporation’s critical finances.

Pallister, however, blamed the mass resignation over his order to cancel a deal between Hydro and the MMF, which would have paid the federation $67.5 million over 50 years. As part of the proposal, the planned $453-million Hydro transmission line to Minnesota would proceed without objections from the Métis group.

Pallister called it "hush money" to buy off a special-interest group that would rob future generations of Métis people of their rights, and set a precedent for similar payments on future projects, such as the $540-million Lake St. Martin flood-mitigation channels.

The MMF was outraged and announced plans to take the province to court and seek a judicial review. The contract was not a proposal, but a "turning-the-page" agreement between Hydro and the Métis people, established under the terms of previous court decisions on land claims, Chartrand said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen wants a reset on the process between the province, Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen wants a reset on the process between the province, Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation.

"Cabinet did not agree with the proposal that was on the table," Cullen said Friday. "Cabinet was not happy with the proposal that the MMF and Manitoba Hydro brought forward."

Cullen said he hoped the MMF and Hydro could find a different path forward, but was vague about what that path could be. Money is an issue, he said.

"Obviously, money is part of the conversation... see what other options are out there. Cabinet clearly decided they didn’t like that particular proposal," he said.

Cullen would not say Friday if he accepts the Métis have any land rights in areas the transmission line would cross or if he believes the $67.5-million deal was simply about paying the federation not to oppose the project.

He said he would meet with Hydro management and its new board soon, before meeting with Hydro and the MMF in two weeks.

What Hydro’s reset position will be on the proposal is to be part of his meeting with the Crown corporation, but the province has not told the new Hydro board what to do, Cullen said.

"There’s been no directive issued," he said.

The MMF believes a 2014 agreement signed by the province delegates the authority to reach such agreements to Hydro.

That document was just a framework, not delegated authority, and cabinet is adamant the axed $67.5-million deal was just a proposal, Cullen said.

However, MMF lawyer Jason Madden pointed out the cabinet order telling Hydro to cancel the deal called it an agreement. When reporters put that to Cullen, he went silent for several seconds before answering: "We’ll let the legal people sort that out."

The March 21 cabinet order reads: "Manitoba Hydro is directed to not proceed with the agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation at this time. Going forward, all relationship agreements, community benefit agreements or other similar agreements to which this directive applies between Manitoba Hydro and Indigenous communities and groups require review by the minister of Crown Services before being executed."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 8:15 AM CDT: Final

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