New Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board named as tensions rise between government and Metis federation
Published Friday, March 23, 2018 11:21AM CST
Last Updated Friday, March 23, 2018 6:22PM CST
Five appointees have been named to the Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board following the mass resignations this week over what the former board said was an inability to meet with the Manitoba government and Premier Brian Pallister on critical issues facing the Crown corporation.
Marina James, CEO of WinnipegREALTORS since 2016, has been named the new chair, and released a statement saying she is "honoured to accept the role."
The other appointees are Michael Moore, the former president of the Manitoba Home Builders Association and current consultant for the Urban Development Institute; Lisa Meeches, the president and executive producer of Eagle Vision Inc. and Meeches Video productions; Melanie McKague, senior legal counsel for Bell Canada; and Wade Linden, a special projects advisor for Southport Aerospace Centre Inc.
“The five new appointees to the board come from diverse sectors and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the work of the corporation,” said Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen. “Our government is confident and excited that these qualified and capable individuals are willing to take up the challenges that lay ahead of Manitoba Hydro and that they will work in the best interest of the corporation and of all Manitobans.”
The new appointments come after 9 of 10 board members resigned on Wednesday.
The lone member remaining from the former board is Progressive Conservative MLA Cliff Graydon.
Pallister has said the real issue which led to the resignations was a nearly $70 million deal between Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation to ensure the MMF wouldn’t stall a transmission line to Minnesota with regulatory challenges.
The government issued a cabinet directive to the board not to proceed with the agreement.
“Going forward, all relationship agreements, community benefit agreements or other similar agreements to which this directive applies between Manitoba Hydro and Indigenous communities and groups require review by the Minister of Crown Services before being executed,” the directive said. “Further, to ensure alignment between the policies and procedures of Manitoba Hydro and the priorities and policies of the government, Manitoba Hydro is directed to collaborate with Manitoba Crown Services to develop a strategy to advance reconciliation with Indigenous communities and groups.”
Pallister has referred to the deal as “persuasion money.”
He said the line runs over about 36 kilometres of Crown land.
“This would work out to a little less than $2 million per kilometre,” Pallister told reporters on Thursday. “That would raise concerns itself because it is 30 or 40 times larger than any previous cash agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation for a project.”
“It proposes to get agreement from in this case, the Manitoba Metis Federation, that they would be paid if they don’t participate in future environmental hearings or object to future projects. This would be like a father selling a daughter’s right to vote. To me on that basis this discussion document is one that has real concerns.”
The Manitoba Metis Federation has threatened legal action if the Manitoba government cancels the nearly $70 million deal made by the MMF and Manitoba Hydro.
“The MMF will fight against political interference in Manitoba Hydro’s agreement with the MMF and the legally enforceable commitment in the 2014 Turning the Page Agreement negotiated with the MMF, Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Government,” said MMF president David Chartrand in a statement. “Let me be clear: the law and the Constitution of this country apply equally in Manitoba. The days of the Crown being able to deny Metis rights, deceive us and willfully break promises made to us Indigenous people — without legal consequences — are over.”
“The MMF will turn to the courts to uphold the honour of the Crown if the current Manitoba Government has none.”
The agreement was thrust into the spotlight following the mass resignation of the Manitoba Hydro Board on Wednesday over what the board says was an inability to meet with the government or the premier on critical finance and governance issues facing the Crown corporation.
Full statement from Marina James, new chairperson of Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board:
“I am honoured to accept the role of Chairperson of the Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board. Manitoba Hydro is respected in this province, and its mandate to serve the community is something I look forward to strengthening.
When this position was initially offered to me on Wednesday, I knew that this would be an opportunity to tackle the challenges that presently face Manitoba Hydro.
While I will not comment on the statements made by my predecessor, my priority is to have an open dialogue with the Minister of Crown Services during such time as I hold this position.
Our board will be meeting for the first time in the coming days. I have already met with Minister Cliff Cullen, and will be speaking with Manitoba Hydro CEO Kelvin Shepherd this afternoon. “