December 12, 2018

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New friction between province, MMF

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen, left and Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand are blaming each other for cancelling a meeting about a $67.5-million dispute that involves a proposed Manitoba Hydro transmission line to Minnesota.</p>

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen, left and Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand are blaming each other for cancelling a meeting about a $67.5-million dispute that involves a proposed Manitoba Hydro transmission line to Minnesota.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2018 (236 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen and Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand are blaming each other for the cancellation of a crucial meeting over a $67.5-million dispute that threatens to delay the proposed $453-million Manitoba Hydro transmission line to Minnesota.

“We did not cancel tomorrow’s meeting,” Cullen told reporters Thursday, of the gathering that was to be held in his office at the legislature this morning. “We just received a letter in the last couple of days, saying they weren’t prepared to meet.”

The minister’s statements were later countered by Chartrand, who said in an interview the MMF had lawyers fly in Thursday from Toronto to prep the federation for the meeting Cullen had called several weeks ago.

“Unbelievable,” Chartrand said. “Minister Cullen cancelled the meeting today by email. Definitely, we were ready to go ahead. I guarantee we didn’t cancel.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/4/2018 (236 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen and Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand are blaming each other for the cancellation of a crucial meeting over a $67.5-million dispute that threatens to delay the proposed $453-million Manitoba Hydro transmission line to Minnesota.

"We did not cancel tomorrow’s meeting," Cullen told reporters Thursday, of the gathering that was to be held in his office at the legislature this morning. "We just received a letter in the last couple of days, saying they weren’t prepared to meet."

The minister’s statements were later countered by Chartrand, who said in an interview the MMF had lawyers fly in Thursday from Toronto to prep the federation for the meeting Cullen had called several weeks ago.

"Unbelievable," Chartrand said. "Minister Cullen cancelled the meeting today by email. Definitely, we were ready to go ahead. I guarantee we didn’t cancel."

Chartrand said the MMF had written to Cullen, but the correspondence was aimed at finding out what was going on, not to derail the gathering.

"We’re questioning the validity of it. What’s the meeting about? There’s no agenda, no letter," the Métis federation leader said.

"Our lawyers are watching very carefully they don’t get tricked."

An enormous rift between the provincial government led by Premier Brian Pallister and the MMF broke open last month, over a proposed $67.5-million deal (spread over 50 years) which would result in the MMF not objecting to the hydroelectric transmission line project to Minnesota.

The public controversy began with nine of the government’s 10 hand-picked Hydro board members resigning over accusations Pallister had not met with the board for the past 16 months over the Crown corporation’s critical finances.

Pallister, however, blamed the mass resignation over his order to the board to cancel the Hydro-MMF agreement. 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. Chartrand said it was not a proposal, it was a "Turning the Page" agreement between Hydro and the Métis people under previous court decisions on land claims, and it was a done deal.

Under Turning the Page, Manitoba recognizes the Crown has a duty to consult with Métis when any proposed Crown decision or action might adversely affect the exercise of the Aboriginal rights of Métis.

Cullen later called all the parties to meet in his office Friday, though he didn’t make public an agenda, the MMF said.

"We were trying to flush out an agenda from them," Chartrand said.

Meanwhile, Cullen insisted Thursday the MMF told him a steering committee needed to talk further before meeting with Crown Services and Hydro representatives.

Cullen wouldn’t release the correspondence in question, saying it is confidential; but Chartrand provided it to the media.

In the April 17 letter from MMF chief of staff Al Benoit, addressed to Crown Services deputy minister Grant Doak, the MMF says the province has so far not provided an agenda or properly defined what the dispute is about.

"We will, therefore, be attending with the hope of better understanding what the Manitoba government has decided or done. Our participation this Friday is a demonstration of the MMF’s willingness to meet with the Manitoba government in order to understand what it has unilaterally done, Benoit wrote.

Benoit implored Doak to provide information, concluding: "We look forward to hearing from the Manitoba government on these issues in order to allow for us to sufficiently prepare for Friday’s meeting."

The government, however, cited the tripartite steering committee regulations established under the Turning the Page agreement.

On Wednesday, Doak wrote to Benoit: "The MMF states that the issues in dispute have not yet been properly defined by the tripartite steering committee. According to Article 5.1.3, the steering committee must properly define the dispute before the matter is referred to the MMF president, Manitoba Hydro’s chief executive officer and the minister of Crown services.

"In response to this letter, we will reschedule the April 20 meeting to allow the steering committee to meet to define the dispute," wrote Doak.

Manitoba Hydro kept its head down Thursday, saying representatives would attend the meeting as rescheduled.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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