Métis group takes deal with Manitoba Hydro to National Energy Board

The battle between the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Manitoba government over a cancelled $67.5-million agreement between the MMF and Manitoba Hydro will now be scrutinized by the National Energy Board.

Manitoba Metis Federation wants board to look at Indigenous rights connected to agreement with Hydro

The $453 million Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line project could face delays following the Manitoba Métis Federation's submission to the National Energy Board. (Chris Seto/CBC)

The battle between the Manitoba Metis Federation and the Manitoba government over a cancelled agreement between the MMF and Manitoba Hydro will now be scrutinized by the National Energy Board.

The Métis federation has forwarded its concerns about the cancelled agreement to the energy board, which is holding hearings on the fate of the Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line project. The agreement is also the subject of legal action, with the Métis federation asking the courts to reinstate the multimillion-dollar deal.

The move could clog an already delayed process for approval of the massive $453-million transmission line project, which is scheduled to be complete in June 2020.

The deal, worked out between the federation and Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro, would have given the federation $67.5 million for supporting hydro projects such as the new transmission line to Minnesota.

Premier Brian Pallister killed the deal in March, calling it "persuasion money" for approval of the transmission line project.

Pallister said it was the reason nearly the entire board of Hydro quit in March. Former chair Sandy Riley vehemently denied that was the case, saying the cause was a lack of access to the premier on several key issues.

The MMF believes the agreement is legally binding and cannot be killed, which is the argument it's making before the courts.

MMF president David Chartrand said the federation is also asking the National Energy Board to look at the "outstanding agreement yet to be finalized, which has a direct impact on the NEB overseeing the Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line."

The energy board has a mandate to ensure companies consult Indigenous people who might be impacted by projects it is reviewing.

While Chartrand believes the agreement with Hydro will be upheld by the courts, thus securing Métis approval for the transmission line, he wants the energy board to know that without the agreement, Hydro will still lack that approval.

Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand says his organization could have a major problem with the transmission line project moving forward. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

​Manitoba Hydro has filed an objection with the NEB over the MMF request, saying the "alleged agreement is not relevant to the application [for the transmission line] before the National Energy Board."

A spokesperson for Hydro declined comment on the matter, saying the case was before the courts.

The National Energy Board will hear arguments on the issue on Monday.

Pallister told reporters on Tuesday any delay in construction of the transmission line arising from either the Métis federation's request to the NEB or the outcome of the judicial review is "all hypothetical."

The provincial government has hired a Calgary law firm to argue Manitoba's case on the judicial review.

Chartrand called that a waste of taxpayers' money and wondered why the Progressive Conservative government didn't use in-house lawyers.

Pallister said the Alberta firm had experts on the issue the province wants to use and "when you have that much taxpayers' money at stake, you want to get the best possible legal advice."