By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Metis Federation plans to ask the courts to overturn a provincial government decision and uphold a tentative agreement that would see it get $67 million for supporting new energy projects.
The federation said it’s assembling a legal team that will file for a judicial review of Premier Brian Pallister’s move last week to quash a deal that had been negotiated between the federation and Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro.
“This is the position of one individual who has taken a position that he is the king,” Metis federation president David Chartrand said Wednesday. “There are no kings in this country, I’m sorry. We have a democracy in this country.”
The planned legal action is the latest development stemming from the mass resignation of nine of 10 Manitoba Hydro board directors last week. The board members cited an inability to meet with Pallister to discuss issues such as Indigenous rights.
Pallister fired back, saying the board members resigned because he had stopped the tentative agreement with the Metis.
He called the $67 million “persuasion money” to a special interest group, and said it was wrong because it essentially paid the federation not to oppose a planned transmission line to Minnesota and a number of other projects for up to 50 years.
The federation said Wednesday that while the deal with Manitoba Hydro was unsigned and had been taken to the government for approval, it was still a legally binding agreement because Hydro has the authority to negotiate such deals.
“The Crown in 2014 delegated authority to Manitoba Hydro to negotiate with the Manitoba Metis Federation on these issues,” federation lawyer Jason Madden said.
Sanford Riley, the board chairman who resigned last week, said the proposed deal made sense in light of recent court rulings that have supported Metis rights. In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the country’s 600,000 Metis have many of the same rights as First Nations, including the right to be consulted on Crown activities that affect them.
Pallister has said he quashed the deal to protect taxpayers and Manitoba Hydro, as well as to protect the rights of future generations of Metis to oppose energy projects.