WINNIPEG - Premier Brian Pallister has no one but his own government to blame for delays to a $500-million Lake St. Martin flood mitigation project, says Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, Dougald Lamont.
At a rambling news conference, Brian Pallister said First Nations could not have a "veto" over projects and blamed the Federal Government for "shifting the goal posts."
The reality is the province's application was half-baked, incomplete, and missing basic information. The application also ignored the rights of the affected First Nations Communities.
"In a divided country, I am extremely concerned that the Premier is using this issue not just to blame others, but to suggest that First Nations are to blame for delays," said Lamont. "The PCs had three years to put this plan together and they failed."
The project is on hold because the federal government listed 27 pages of "gaps" with the province's application. Some gaps were as basic as a list of water wells in the project's buffer zone, or a description of the fish habitat for Lake St. Martin - neither of which were included in the application.
The province's application left out impacts on flooding in Lake Winnipeg, fishing, wildlife, or drinking water. Table of contents were misnumbered, links to websites were either wrong of missing, and there was no mention of the impacts on drinking water. In more than one instance, the application referred to outdated federal legislation that has since been updated.
Just as important, there was no mention in the province's application of alternatives - which both the previous NDP and the PC government spent millions of dollars developing.
All those are in addition to inadequate Indigenous consultation with affected communities.
Lamont said he attended a consultation meeting on February 8, 2020, with the Interlake Reserves Tribal Council (IRTC), which was an opportunity for affected communities to voice their concerns to the provincial government. No one from the PC government attended. Eileen Clark was sick, but no one attended in her place.
"We heard concerns that graveyards will be flooded, some communities turned into islands, that fishing could be ruined, and that the provincial consultation was almost non-existent," said Lamont. "If this were being proposed in any other community, people would be up in arms, and rightfully so. First Nations rights are part of the law, and they must not be swept aside because the PCs didn't do their homework."