Manitoba Hydro and Sagkeeng First Nation officials say they're disappointed that band members have rejected a settlement worth almost $140 million.
Community members voted 265-120 on the Manitoba Hydro Accord on Saturday, according to the First Nation. A majority vote was needed for the deal to pass.
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The deal was supposed to compensate the Sagkeeng First Nation for the impact of six Hydro stations on the Winnipeg River, replacing a similar accord that expired in 2006.
Manitoba Hydro says if the deal had passed, the First Nation would have received $39.8 million in compensation and about $100 million in contracts for work that the public utility is planning to carry out in the area.
As well, Hydro would have transferred almost 77 hectares of traditional land to the First Nation and funded up to $50,000 a year for a shoreline enhancement program as part of the agreement, which would have expired in 2046.
"We thought we had a good agreement in place with the community," Hydro spokesperson Scott Powell told CBC News on Monday.
"It had been a long time in the making, but the community didn't go for it at the end of the day."
The First Nation has pegged the total value of the deal at $200 million.
Chief blames 'small group' of members
Sagkeeng Chief Donavan Fontaine said the outcome of this weekend's ratification vote was disappointing for him and council members.
"We believed that this was a fulsome agreement that would benefit Sagkeeng, and now the community must decide the next steps," Fontaine stated in a news release.
"Unfortunately, the consequences mean that our reserve lands will continue to erode and there will be less opportunity to address the high unemployment rates and poverty on our reserve."
Fontaine said he never portrayed the Hydro accord as a perfect deal, "but it was a pretty darn good deal that stands up to other hydro deals and land claim settlements anywhere.
"It was certainly not a magic bullet to fix all our problems and challenges, however, it was an important building block to develop a healthier community," he added.
"It is unfortunate that a small group of people could have such a negative effect on the future of our community and deny everyone else the opportunity to prosper."
Powell said Manitoba Hydro will have to communicate with First Nation officials before deciding what to do next.
"Too early, really, to say what will occur at this stage. Once we hear a little more from the community, I guess we'll move forward from there," he said.
Sagkeeng First Nation news release
Read the full news release from the Sagkeeng First Nation, sent Monday afternoon, regarding the failed ratification vote.
- ON MOBILE? Read the news release here.