By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Metis Federation threatened more court action against the province Wednesday as the Progressive Conservative government pulled out of a benefits agreement for the second time this year.
The Tories served formal notice the government is backing out of a $20-million agreement signed with the federation and Manitoba Hydro in 2014.
The money was to be paid out over 20 years in exchange for the federation dropping any opposition to the Crown utility’s Keeyask generating station and an extensive transmission line. The line was completed this year while the generation station is to open in 2021.
Earlier this year, the province cancelled a similar agreement on a smaller transmission line and other projects worth $67 million.
Federation president David Chartrand accused Premier Brian Pallister of being deceitful.
“He’s cancelling all these agreements,” Chartrand said. “He knows we’re going to have to sue. We’re going to go after our rights.”
Pallister said he cancelled the deals — signed by the previous NDP government — because they amounted to buying support.
“The misguided practice of paying people for silence so that you could rush ahead with projects is over,” the premier said.
“I’ve got too much respect for the people of this province to think that they should be bought off.”
The federation has already filed a court challenge over cancellation of the first deal. The Metis group argues it was legally binding, even though it was an unsigned agreement with Manitoba Hydro and taken to the government for a final say.
The second deal allowed either side to pull out with 30 days notice.
Chartrand said the government has a constitutional duty to consult Indigenous people on projects, and leaving the agreement means there was no meaningful consultation.
About $5 million of the promised $20 million has been received, Chartrand added.
“Reconciliation left this province when … Premier Pallister took over,” he said.
“You’re going to see a very strong divisional situation occurring in this province between Indigenous people and non.”