Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 24/9/2018 (729 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LA BROQUERIE — Premier Brian Pallister won't apologize for his past comments about the Manitoba Metis Federation, and the MMF believes his refusal to do so implies racial bias against the organization.
"This man without a doubt has racial bias in him, without doubt," MMF president David Chartrand said Monday, after hearing the premier refused to apologize to the MMF, despite its call for him to do so a day earlier.
"He’s trying to pit one group of people against the Indigenous people and it’s unfortunate this premier is using that kind of racial-divide mentality" ‐ MMF president David Chartrand
"This leader of the Conservative party truly has a racial connotation in his remarks and it doesn’t take much for somebody to see between the lines what he’s trying to do and what he’s trying to say. He’s trying to reference that Indigenous people don’t actually own land and should have no rights to that land," Chartrand said.
"Those that are private owners that have bought the land, purchased the land, theirs are the rights that should be compensated.... He’s trying to pit one group of people against the Indigenous people and it’s unfortunate this premier is using that kind of racial-divide mentality."
At a Bell MTS announcement about extended cell service to southeast Manitoba Monday, the premier told reporters he had "nothing to apologize for" regarding his past comments about the MMF.
In March, after nine out of 10 Manitoba Hydro board members resigned at once, Pallister said the reason for the departures was his government’s decision to veto a planned Hydro payment of close to $70 million to the MMF to keep the organization from pressing for extended environmental hearings on a proposed Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line.
"I don’t believe it’s right to stand back as a government that’s committed to trying to fix the finances in this province for Manitobans... and then watch as a Crown corporation makes a $70-million payment to a special-interest group," Pallister told media in March, referring to the planned payout as "persuasion money."
Former Hydro board members, including onetime board chair Sanford Riley, refuted the premier's claim, arguing Pallister refused to meet with them to discuss several critical issues, leading to their resignations.
Chartrand said the payment — which would have been made in instalments over 50 years — was intended as compensation for myriad projects, including the Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line.
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"We’re not in the business as a government of trying to buy favour by paying money to people so they like us" – Premier Brian Pallister
At the organization's annual general assembly over the weekend, more than 3,000 delegates voted unanimously in favour of a resolution demanding an apology from Pallister "for his disrespectful statements about the MMF and its leadership, and more significantly, his ongoing disrespect of the rights and claims of the Manitoba Métis Community."
On Monday, Pallister said he doesn't regret his past statements "at all."
"We’re not in the business as a government of trying to buy favour by paying money to people so they like us. What we’re in the business of doing is making sure that people are compensated fully and fairly when a Hydro project or any other government-led project is built," the premier said.
"And so, that’s our approach as a government. We will not be continuing with the old practices of paying millions of dollars to buy favour with people. Instead we’ll treat everyone fairly and fully compensate them when there are damages."
Bell MTS extends cell service around southeast Manitoba
Bell MTS will be extending its network to the communities of Stuartburn, Woodridge and Zhoda in the coming months.
Woodridge will be the first to get a coverage boost this month, while Stuartburn and Zhoda will have to wait until the new year, said Dan McKeen, vice chair of Bell MTS & Western Canada, at a news announcement in La Broquerie, Man. Monday.
"This is the kind of day we really like when we’re announcing spending money to make things better," McKeen said. "The residents of these communities as well as travellers on Highway 12 and 59 will have enhanced access to world-class broadband services."
The network expansion could save lives, according to southeast residents like Jim Swidersky, reeve of the RM of Stuartburn.
"Today is a great day for us in our region. Seven years ago, the southeast literally was on fire everywhere. An uncontrolled wildfire caused havoc," Swidersky remembered.
The fire crews' FleetNet line of communication wasn't working at the time, causing further panic.
“Fire chiefs were breaking windows to use land lines to communicate with command… the public was very anxious and at the end of the day, thank God no lives were lost," the reeve said.
"It became apparent with FleetNet service being down that an alternative source of communication was needed. It also showed us that we had to lobby hard to government and telecoms of the critical importance of cell phones and public safety."
Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) president Chris Goertzen said the issue of cell service comes up at nearly every municipal meeting he attends. The AMM represents 137 municipalities.
"We hope more towers will be constructed throughout Manitoba, particularly in the Parkland and Midland where they also have trouble with cellular coverage," Goertzen said.