Fort Providence leaders refute MLA's statements about bridge grant
Dehcho MLA Ronald Bonnetrouge called group that administers grant 'secretive'
Leaders in Fort Providence, N.W.T., are refuting allegations that there's a lack of accountability for the spending of a $200,000 annual grant from the territorial government.
The grant is paid out each year under an agreement — the Community Opportunities and Involvement Agreement — the government made with the community after the initial agreement for its participation in the construction and operation of the Deh Cho Bridge fell apart.
During debate of the territorial budget last week, Ronald Bonnetrouge, the MLA for the community, said that prior to becoming an MLA, he was turned away after asking for records of how the money is spent.
Bonnetrouge described the committee that administers the grant as "a secretive group," and said he was told it conducts its business by email instead of meetings.
But Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę First Nation Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge said the First Nation's audited financial statements show where the grant money goes. He said the audited statements are available to any band member. He said the group meets every three months or so and minutes are kept of the meetings.
"If there are any concerns, then meetings are open...any member would have a right to look at the audited statements," said Joachim in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Ronald, who is Joachim's cousin, refused to comment when asked about the issue on Wednesday, saying in an email, "I am satisfied and will respect the leaders' concerns and statements."
The Deh Gáh Got'ı̨ę First Nation and Fort Providence Métis Council also issued a joint statement objecting to their MLA's statements.
"We feel that MLA Bonnetrouge's comments are irresponsible and may jeopardize upcoming negotiations with the government of the Northwest Territories to discuss the Community Opportunities and Involvement Agreement," said the two groups in the statement.
Joachim said the community will be sitting down with the territorial government to review the agreement and is hoping the total amount will be increased to reflect inflation.
He said Ronald's statements about the fund are not helping the community get that increase.