December 10, 2019

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Province pulls out of landmark deal, furious Métis leader vows lawsuit

The Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF) plans to take the provincial government to court — a second time this year — for cancelling a landmark agreement over consultations on Manitoba Hydro development.

In a letter sent to the MMF Tuesday, the province said it is terminating the Turning the Page Agreement within 30 days. The $20-million deal, signed by Hydro, the MMF and the province in 2014, ends effective Nov. 29.

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>MMF President David Chartrand said the group will take the province to court to get the rest of the money. </p>

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press

MMF President David Chartrand said the group will take the province to court to get the rest of the money.

MMF President David Chartrand said the federation will take the province to court to get the $15 million it's still owed from the agreement.

The province's decision to pull out of the deal took the MMF by surprise and Chartrand believes Hydro also wasn't aware of the pending decision, since no one from the Crown corporation co-signed the government's letter.

"It just shows that Hydro, obviously, is not either in favour of this or does not support this or is just being told what they’re going to do. So really, I don’t know why we have a (Hydro) board. I don’t know why we have a president of the Hydro board. (Premier Brian) Pallister should just run it under his office," Chartrand said.

"That’s what Manitobans better start to understand, because he’s overruling higher agreements and putting Hydro in a very litigious position."

Pallister said the government is rescinding the agreement because it wants to offer better opportunities for consultation with Indigenous and Métis people.

What's the Turning the Page Agreement?

The Manitoba government, Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation signed the Turning the Page Agreement in November 2014. It was intended to "to build a forward-looking, productive and non-adversarial working relationship" among the three parties, as laid out in its terms of reference.

The MMF was to be paid $1 million per year until 2034 to compensate for past and current Hydro development on Métis lands, for a total of $20 million. The group has received $5 million to date.

The money has gone toward funding various projects, such as undertaking church and arena repairs, throwing cultural celebrations and erecting veterans' monuments, the MMF said.

The Manitoba government, Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation signed the Turning the Page Agreement in November 2014. It was intended to "to build a forward-looking, productive and non-adversarial working relationship" among the three parties, as laid out in its terms of reference.

The MMF was to be paid $1 million per year until 2034 to compensate for past and current Hydro development on Métis lands, for a total of $20 million. The group has received $5 million to date.

The money has gone toward funding various projects, such as undertaking church and arena repairs, throwing cultural celebrations and erecting veterans' monuments, the MMF said.

Turning the Page assured the MMF would be compensated for the impacts on Métis people from the Keeyask and Bipole III Hydro megaprojects. It didn't prevent the group from participating in regulatory proceedings or reviews related to existing or future Hydro developments, nor from making submissions to commissions, agencies, boards or government related to environmental or regulatory issues.

Any of the three signatories could pull out of the TPA if they gave 30 days notice to the other parties in writing.

The government is not asking the MMF to repay the funding it has received from the agreement so far because it doesn't believe there was a fundamental breach of the contract.

MMF president David Chartrand said his group plans to take the province to court over the outstanding amount owed from the agreement.

Chartrand has already asked for a separate judicial review of a planned $67.5-million payment that was scrapped by the provincial government in March. The money was to be paid out over 50 years, as compensation to the MMF, which would not object to a planned Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line, among other projects.

Premier Brian Pallister nixed the idea, calling it "hush money" paid out to a "special interest group."

Pallister said his decision to pull the plug is the reason nine of 10 Hydro board members quit in the spring, though the former board chair Sanford Riley has refuted that claim. Riley said the premier refused to meet with the board to discuss various issues with Hydro, which led to the mass exodus.

— Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

During question period, the premier decried the former NDP government's approach to Indigenous relations, saying "it was paternalistic, it was colonialistic (and) it was designed to tell Indigenous people to go away and be quiet (by) cutting a cheque."

"We want a more respectful process and we think that it’s important not to rely on the old practices of paying people not to consult. That was the origins of the original agreement and that’s not how we’re going to go about things going forward," Pallister told reporters afterward.

"We have too much respect for the Métis people to want to have them do anything but participate in all the hearings, all the public consultations."

Chartrand has had no loss for words when it comes to speaking on the Hydro file. He already asked for a judicial review of a planned $67.5-million payment that the provincial government yanked in March. The matter is still before the courts.

Chartrand rebuked the premier for appointing a Métis minister for Crown Services, Colleen Mayer, in August, then having her dismantle a deal with the federation.

"I think that’s sinister, I think that’s cruel, I think that’s evil. And I don’t know how Colleen Mayer is going to look in the mirror in the morning, look every day knowing that she’s affected thousands and thousands of people by her actions in cancelling these programs," he said.

Mayer told reporters she was elected to represent all Manitobans, including the Métis, and she stands by the government's decision.

In its letter to the MMF, the province said it was cancelling the agreement to rework its policies on consultation.

"As stated previously, the Manitoba government is committed to advancing reconciliation with the Manitoba Métis. However, from our perspective, the TPA has failed to do so. A re-evaluation of how Manitoba government policies and priorities, including reconciliation with Indigenous communities, can be accomplished is required," wrote Grant Doak, acting deputy minister of Crown Services.

"The province is hopeful that Manitoba, Hydro and the Métis can work together, constructively and in good faith, to find means of fostering mutually beneficial relationships."

After talking with Chartrand and former Hydro board chair Sandy Riley about the quashed agreement, NDP Leader Wab Kinew criticized the government's decision.

"The thing that comes out loud and clear with the conversations that I’m having with people is that nobody can work with the premier. Even people in his own base, even people who share his own ideology cannot work with this person," Kinew said.

"And now, for him to come out in a very craven way and try to divide people and practise the politics of division, to me, it just shows how morally bankrupt this premier's politics are. So again, Manitoba Hydro’s not going bankrupt — the premier is going morally bankrupt."

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 12:39 PM CDT: Writethru

2:43 PM: Changed photo.

5:28 PM: Final version

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