June 19, 2018

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Manitoba government hires Calgary law firm in MMF dispute over cancelled Hydro agreement

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>David Chartrand president of the Manitoba Metis Federation during the announcement that the MMF has sued the provincial government over orders Premier Brian Pallister gave Manitoba Hydro to kill a land-entitlement deal.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

David Chartrand president of the Manitoba Metis Federation during the announcement that the MMF has sued the provincial government over orders Premier Brian Pallister gave Manitoba Hydro to kill a land-entitlement deal.

Premier Brian Pallister says he has "70 million reasons" to hire the high-powered Calgary law firm Osler to defend the province in court against a legal challenge by the Manitoba Metis Federation.

On Tuesday, MMF president David Chartrand questioned the government's choice of legal counsel.

"(Pallister) said he's worried about taxpayers' money... Well, Manitoba has a lot of lawyers in the government. So how come they're not using their experts?" Chartrand told the Free Press.

"I guess (Pallister's) going to spend no matter what he has to spend to make sure that he tries to hide the truth. And I'm going to be pushing hard for the truth."

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Premier Brian Pallister says he has "70 million reasons" to hire the high-powered Calgary law firm Osler to defend the province in court against a legal challenge by the Manitoba Metis Federation.

On Tuesday, MMF president David Chartrand questioned the government's choice of legal counsel.

'I'm going to be pushing hard for the truth'— MMF President David Chartrand

"(Pallister) said he's worried about taxpayers' money... Well, Manitoba has a lot of lawyers in the government. So how come they're not using their experts?" Chartrand told the Free Press.

"I guess (Pallister's) going to spend no matter what he has to spend to make sure that he tries to hide the truth. And I'm going to be pushing hard for the truth."

The MMF will face off in court June 25 against the provincial government over orders cabinet gave Manitoba Hydro on March 21 to kill a land-entitlement deal worth $67.5 million over 50 years.

Among the provisions of the agreement — which the government argues was a mere proposal — is the MMF would not oppose a proposed $453-million hydro transmission line to Minnesota that would facilitate increased U.S. sales. The project is currently up for approval before the National Energy Board.

Osler has represented Kinder Morgan in all challenges to the federal and provincial approvals of the proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, as well as other energy companies.

"They’re an expert law firm on this type of issue," Pallister said Tuesday. "We’re being falsely accused, in my estimation, that we have an obligation to David Chartrand and... the MMF that we do not have. And so when there’s that much taxpayers money at stake, I think it’s really important to make sure that you have the best possible legal advice."

Asked whether he was concerned the MMF may hold up the Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line project if its deal with Hydro remains quashed, the premier said such speculation was "hypothetical."

"The nature of the proposal is that it would actually pay people so they didn’t have the right to go to the NEB, so they wouldn’t have the right to object to a Hydro project," he told reporters.

The June 25 hearing in Court of Queen's Bench is an application by the MMF to seek a judicial review of the decision to kill the $67.5-million deal with Hydro.

Separately, the MMF plans to file a breach of contract lawsuit against the government over the same March cabinet order.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 12:07 PM CDT: tweaks headline

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