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Sagkeeng chief disappointed by rejected $200-M Hydro deal

Sagkeeng confirmed a fraction of the First Nation’s population voted down a Manitoba Hydro deal worth $200 million to the Ojibway community.

A statement Monday expressed the chief’s and council’s regret the proposed Hydro accord was rejected in a vote Saturday by a margin of 265 to 120.

There are 7,500 registered band members at the First Nation 145 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

A total of 385 people turned out for the meeting at the community’s multiplex.

Without commenting on direct concerns, the statement from Sakgeeng’s chief said no deal would work miracles.

"I never portrayed the accord as a perfect deal, but it was a pretty darn good deal that stands up to other Hydro deals and land claim settlements anywhere. It was certainly not a magic bullet to fix all our problems and challenges. However, it was an important building block to develop a healthier community," Donovan Fontaine said.

He called it unfortunate that a minority could decide the future of the community.

The $200-million deal would have run for 40 years and covered full shoreline protection for reserve lands along the Winnipeg River, excluding Traverse Bay, at an estimated cost of $50 million to 80 million, the statement said.

There were also promises for jobs through a minimum target of $100 million in contract work for Sagkeeng in relation to any Hydro construction and development on the Winnipeg River, with a penalty clause if the target was not met.

Finally, $38.9 million in cash was set aside in a trust to be distributed in annual payments over the life of the accord.

In addition to the money, approximately 190 acres of sacred traditional land at the junction of the Whitemouth and Winnipeg rivers would to be transferred by Manitoba Hydro to Sagkeeng.

Finally, the statement said the deal held a clause to renew or renegotiate the accord after it expired in 2046.

Unidentified community members posting on Facebook say they objected to the payment schedule for the $38.9-million trust fund.

One analysis argued Hydro would hang on to more money and undercut Sagkeeng’s share by not tying the payouts to inflation.

Trust fund distributions don’t generally fluctuate up or down with inflation rates.

Annual payouts amounted to $750,000 a year over the life of the contract under the nixed deal.

"None of these monies are tied to Canada’s inflation rate of two per cent... this means the final payment in 2045 will only be worth $285,000 in today’s dollars," one section read.

Another part of the Facebook campaign against the deal estimates that $9.5 million of the trust would end up being worth $5.3 million but it’s not entirely clear how that number was arrived at. Another expressed concern that the deal was hashed out by the Sagkeeng leaders without community scrutiny.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 6:53 PM CDT:
added expiry date of old accord

Updated on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM CDT:
Adds comment from Hydro.

Updated on Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7:32 PM CDT:
Updated story, new headline

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The community couldn't be bothered to show up and vote, why would they be involved in "community scrutiny"? But they are right, seems like a terrible deal - free jobs and training, free land, free money. Better to have nothing.

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