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MMF accuses Premier of ‘race card’ tactics after Hydro board payment called ‘persuasion money’

WATCH: Accusations and questions were flying after nine board members of Manitoba Hydro announced resignations Wednesday. Global's Brittany Greenslade reports.

The Manitoba Metis Federation has accused the Premier of using ‘race card’ tactics to explain the resignation of the entire Manitoba Hydro Board.

Nine of its members, including the chair, announced their resignations Wednesday morning.

Premier Brian Pallister said that decision came after his office expressed concerns over the board’s decision to pay the MMF $70 million to help make construction of a transmission line between Minnesota and Manitoba “go smoother”.

“I would describe it as more persuasion money,” Pallister said.

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“We don’t agree with that payment. That has ramifications for indigenous groups that might apply for compensation and want money, it has implications for the construction of an outlet on the north end of Lake Manitoba.”

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READ: Manitoba Hydro chair suggests proposed carbon tax could offset Hydro rates

In a statement MMF President David Chartrand accused the Premier of using “race card” tactics to “divide Manitobans for his own failings.”

Chartrand said the MMF had reached an agreement with the Hydro Board that would save taxpayers money and prevent unnecessary delays.

“Now Premier Pallister will likely cost all Manitobans, including Manitoba Metis Citizens who pay hundreds of millions in taxes to the Province each year, triple that in project delays, litigation and damages.  All Manitobans should question the path this Premier is taking us down,” Chartrand said in the statement.

Earlier Wednesday morning Manitoba Hydro chair Sanford Riley said it had reached an impasse with the government on critical issues, and was offering the resignations of nine of its members effective immediately.

“For over a year we have attempted to meet with the Premier to resolve a number of critical issues related to the finances and governance of Manitoba Hydro, including matters related to Hydro’s efforts to further develop its relationship with Indigenous peoples,” Riley wrote. “Despite repeated attempts we have not been able to have a meaningful dialogue with the government and we have reached an impasse.

“We have been informed the government intends to remove the Chair and has therefore lost confidence in the Board.”

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The resignations are effective immediately and include Dave Brown, Earl Edmondson, Steve Kroft, Jennefer Nepinak, Michael Pyle, Allen Snyder, Dayna Spiring and Dr. Annette Trimbee.

READ: Manitoba Hydro seeking 7.9% tax hike 

All of the board members were appointed by the Conservative government after its election in 2016.

Outgoing Manitoba Hydro board chair Sandy Riley issued a statement to 680 CJOB’s Richard Cloutier late Wednesday afternoon:

“Richard – I appreciate the opportunity to reply to the comments made today by the Premier. I am not looking to engage in a public debate, but I feel compelled to provide the following response.

With regard to the motivations for our resignations this morning, I absolutely stand by everything we said in our statement and our resignation letter to Minister Cullen. The suggestion that there were ‘untruths’ in that statement is simply untrue.

The suggestion that our board would have payed ‘persuasion’ money to anybody is cynical, offensive and wrong.

The agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation was carefully vetted by the Board. It met our legal obligations, encompassed a multiplicity of projects, covered a 50-year period, and was structured to ensure the money went to the people who should benefit from it.  Most importantly the agreement enabled Manitoba Hydro to build infrastructure projects and enabled power sales that take pressure off Manitoba ratepayers.  In the view of our Board it was a good transaction for Manitoba Hydro.

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It is not clear to me how the Premier could have come to this view on these matters, given that he has refused to have conversations with us for over a year, and efforts that we made to engage with him on this issue were continually rebuffed.”

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