Pallister, Trudeau discussed 'differing views' on reconciliation, consultation at Ottawa meeting
Meeting comes after feds delayed deadline to approve Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says a Wednesday meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a proposed power line to the U.S. covered the two leaders' varying takes on reconciliation and consultation.
"Well, there's concern," Pallister told CBC Power and Politics host Vassy Kapelos after the meeting in Ottawa.
Before the meeting, the leaders had said they would try to find common ground on Manitoba Hydro's proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line to Minnesota, the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project. The meeting came after the federal government pushed back its deadline to approve the project, citing outstanding concerns raised by Indigenous communities, until June 14.
"I won't get into the specifics, obviously, of the discussion, but we discussed the, perhaps, somewhat differing views we might have on how reconciliation should really work when it comes to consultation."
"In our view, the old way of appeasement doesn't work."
In March 2018, the Manitoba government scrapped a previously planned agreement between Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba Metis Federation. The agreement would have seen Hydro pay $67.5 million to the group over 50 years and would have guaranteed the MMF's support for Hydro projects for decades.
On Wednesday, Pallister once again said his government wasn't bound to follow through on the payment, which he has previously called "hush money."
"That's not reconciliation. That's not listening. That's not consultation. That's appeasement," the premier said Wednesday. "That's paying people to get out of the way so you can build something."
"It's become a political process when it shouldn't be," Pallister said.
'Absolutely, 100 per cent wrong': Manitoba Metis Federation president
Once completed, the line would provide the final link in a chain bringing hydroelectricity from generating stations in northern Manitoba through the Bipole III transmission line and across the U.S. border.
On Wednesday, Manitoba Metis Federation president David Chartrand said Pallister can't blame Ottawa for delays to the project.
"This premier put himself in this position. He killed an agreement that was in place that took years to negotiate," Chartrand said.
He rejected Pallister's characterization of the Hydro payment as "hush money." Instead, the money would compensate Métis peoples for loss of access to traditional lands expected to result from the transmission project.
"When he wants to talk to Indigenous people, 'I'll consult with you but I'm not going to pay you.' Because if I pay you, it's hush money. But if I pay a farmer or I pay a municipality or a private [company], that's not hush money," he said.
"He's misleading Canadians, misleading Manitobans. ... He's absolutely, 100 per cent wrong,"
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs gives support to transmission line
Also Wednesday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued a news release throwing support behind the transmission line project, saying it "could mean significant employment and economic opportunities for Manitobans and First Nations."
The release said the assembly is encouraged by a "joint economic opportunities and respect of human rights."
"First Nation leaders in Manitoba have no interest in selling the rights of future generations but rather, prefer to live by the spirit and intent of the treaties," the assembly wrote in a news release.
Grand Chief Arlen Dumas, who has previously blasted the province for issues including the child welfare system and consultation on two planned outlet channels, said in the release he and the premier are committed to work together as partners to bring First Nations to the table.
All told, the line is expected to cost roughly $453 million and increase the province's electricity export capacity to 3,185 megawatts from 2,300 megawatts. The province has said delays to the project could cost an additional $200 million a year in damages, penalties and increased costs.
With files from CBC's Power and Politics