Premier's comments about MMF, Hydro deals focus of court fight in judicial review
Province, Hydro want judge to strike out sections of affidavit from MMF president David Chartrand
The provincial government and Manitoba Hydro are trying to "cherry pick" portions of a sworn affidavit filed by Manitoba Métis Federation president David Chartrand in a lawsuit over the scrapping of a $67.5 million agreement, the MMF's lawyer argued Wednesday.
Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal granted the province's and Hydro's request for a preliminary hearing, to be held April 12 ahead of a judicial review of the decision to cancel the agreement, which does not have a date set.
The MMF had objected to holding a preliminary hearing, which they said was unnecessary and simply a delay tactic by the province and Hydro.
The government and Crown corporation want to strike out parts of Chartrand's affidavit — which is roughly 900 pages long over two volumes — detailing negotiations with former Hydro president Kelvin Shepherd, as well as comments by Premier Brian Pallister about the MMF and other agreements Hydro has made.
This is essentially an attack on Indigenous people, not a decision that was made with foresight and forethought and that advances reconciliation.- Jason Madden, MMF lawyer
One portion of the document the province objects to includes quotes from Pallister to reporters describing the agreement — which assured MMF support for the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project and other Hydro projects — as "persuasion money" and calling the federation a "special interest group."
"We think that it's important, because people should see the tone and demeanour, and that this is not reconciliation," MMF lawyer Jason Madden said in an interview. "This is essentially an attack on Indigenous people, not a decision that was made with foresight and forethought and that advances reconciliation."
On March 21, 2018, Pallister announced he had directed Hydro not to proceed with the agreement, which he described as a "discussion document" and not legally binding. His decision triggered the mass resignation of all but one of the members of Hydro's board.
In court on Wednesday, a lawyer for Manitoba Hydro told Joyal their main concerns relate to portions of Chartrand's affidavit related to negotiations with former Hydro president Shepherd.
Chartrand's affidavit states that Shepherd told him Hydro didn't need approval from the government to make the deal "because Manitoba Hydro believed it had the authority to enter into the agreement without Manitoba's consent."
Allowing these sections to be entered as evidence would prejudice Hydro's case because they make "a bold assertion that this is a binding agreement," Hydro's lawyer Bob Adkins argued in court.
Other portions the province wants redacted relate to the 40 years of history between the Manitoba Métis and Hydro, leading up to the 2014 signing of the Turning the Page agreement, a precursor to the MMTP agreement, which the province also cancelled in October.
The province is also seeking to strike out sections that describe agreements Hydro has made with First Nations and other entities, such as SaskPower, which remain in place and which the MMF argues proves the province is unfairly targeting the Métis.
Lawyers for the province and Hydro declined requests for interviews.