North

MLA wants to know how $200K Deh Cho Bridge grant is being spent

The MLA for the Dehcho region is calling for some accountability for a $200,000 annual grant the Northwest Territories' government provides to Fort Providence. Ronald Bonnetrouge says he wants the money to be used to create jobs in the community.

Dehcho MLA says he wants money used to create jobs in Fort Providence, N.W.T.

The Deh Cho Bridge in December 2012. The MLA for the Dehcho region says he has no idea how a $200,000 grant for Fort Providence, in relation to the construction of the bridge, is spent. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

The MLA for the Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories is calling for some accountability for a $200,000 annual grant the Northwest Territories' government provides to Fort Providence, N.W.T.

Dehcho MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge says the grant should be spent on creating jobs in Fort Providence. (Archbould Photography via GNWT)

The grant is paid out each year as a result of an agreement — the Community Opportunities and Involvement Agreement — the government made with community leaders after the initial arrangement for their participation in the construction and operation of the Deh Cho Bridge fell apart.

In the legislature Tuesday, MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge, who lives in Fort Providence, said before he became an MLA he tried to find out how the money was spent.

"It was like a secretive group," said Bonnetrouge of Deh Gah Bridge Ltd., the organization set up to receive and distribute the money. He said he was told they do not hold meetings.

"Apparently, what they do is they send emails to each other," said Bonnetrouge, who is also the former chief of Fort Providence. "Because I was asking questions, it turned a lot of them off, against me ... You know, asking questions and the administrator ... she just refuses to answer anything whatsoever."

Bonnetrouge said he has never seen any reports or accounting showing who receives the money and how it is spent. He said he wants to see the money put toward projects that create jobs in the community.

Minister hoping to find out details soon

According to filings in the corporate registry, the directors of Deh Gah Bridge Ltd. include chief and councillors of the Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę First Nation of Fort Providence and the president and councillors of the Fort Providence Métis Council.

When the agreement was signed in 2010, then Minister of Transportation Michael McLeod, said it allowed the territorial government a quick exit from the concession agreement it had signed with Fort Providence for construction and operation of the bridge

Years later, McLeod's successor Tom Beaulieu told MLAs the money was to be used to develop tourism businesses in Fort Providence.

On Tuesday, Infrastructure Minister Katrina Nokleby said that as far as she knows, there is no criteria to guide spending of the grant money. Nokleby agreed to update Bonnetrouge on what the money is being spent on as long as it's permitted by the agreement the funding flows from.

No one from the Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę First Nation was immediately available to talk about the grant.

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