Metis want judicial review of government’s decision to quash Manitoba Hydro deal

WINNIPEG _ The Manitoba Metis Federation has filed legal action against the provincial government over a hydroelectric development agreement that was halted by Premier Brian Pallister.

The deal, worked out between the federation and Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro, would have given the federation $67 million for supporting hydro projects such as a new transmission line to Minnesota. Potential benefits for the corporation would have included faster approvals at regulatory hearings.

Pallister called the deal “hush money” for a special interest group, and said it was unlike other agreements which compensate people for lost land or encroachment on traditional territories.

The federation filed for a judicial review Monday asking Court of Queen’s Bench to overturn Pallister’s decision and reinstate the deal.

Metis president David Chartrand said Pallister is picking a fight.

“If you push our people, if you try to disrespect our people, if you try to exclude our people … the Metis nation will come after you with everything we’ve got,” Chartrand said.

The agreement was unsigned and had been taken by Manitoba Hydro to the Progressive Conservative government for discussion. Still, the federation’s lawyer said the agreement was legally binding and the government had no authority to stop it.

“They can issue directives to Manitoba Hydro on policy matters, i.e. things around how they conduct their finances, how they do their auditing,” lawyer Jason Madden said.

“But they can’t direct Manitoba Hydro not to do something, i.e. finalize an agreement that it had made with another party.”

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said the government’s position has been clear from the start.

“This is merely a proposal, a bad deal for Manitoba taxpayers, and would take away the constitutional rights of Metis children and grandchildren to be consulted on major projects for years to come,” he said in an email.

“Our government looks forward to defending our position in court.”

An initial hearing has been scheduled for June 25.

The dispute followed the mass resignation of nine of 10 Manitoba Hydro board members in March. The board members cited an inability to meet with Pallister to discuss issues including Indigenous rights.

The government appointed five replacement board members two days later.