So, the premier is having a meeting.
One can only imagine the peals of laughter — or, perhaps, the hot tears of seething frustration — that were prompted Tuesday by reports that Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister had requested a sit-down conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the federal government’s decision to delay approval of the Manitoba-Minnesota power transmission line.
To be clear: the premier requested a meeting with another level of government to deal with a contentious issue, clearly on the assumption that his request would be granted. Mr. Pallister indicated, in fact, that he would be ready to head to Ottawa as early as next week, and now it seems the requested confab with the PM will take place.
One can only wonder how Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman reacted upon reading this.
Mr. Bowman, of course, has been seeking a meeting with the premier for months — might we say years? — to discuss the various manners in which the province has cut or capped previously committed funding to municipal programs.
One might also have liked to be a fly on the wall in the office of H. Sanford Riley when he heard about the premier’s urgent-meeting entreaty; Mr. Riley, of course, chaired a Manitoba Hydro board that resigned en masse in 2018, citing an unwillingness by Mr. Pallister to meet and discuss numerous critical issues, including the Manitoba-Minnesota power transmission line.
According to federal government sources, the delay in approving Manitoba Hydro’s much-discussed transmission line to Minnesota was made necessary by the province’s unilateral cancellation of a deal, negotiated by Hydro officials, to pay the Manitoba Metis Federation $67.5 million over 50 years in exchange for a promise not to oppose that project and others in the future.
At the time, Mr. Pallister inflamed tensions by referring to the deal as "hush money" and describing the MMF as a "special-interest group."
The federal government held up its decision on the project until June 14 to ensure it is able to meet its legal duty to consult with Indigenous communities before approving such projects.
Mr. Pallister, for his part, accused Ottawa of "delaying the approval process and potentially threatening to delay it longer unless we pony up a certain amount of money," a likely reference to the cancelled $67.5-million deal with the MMF.
And to add a layer to the thick irony enveloping the premier’s posture, he followed his "pony-up" pronouncement with this: "And that’s none of their business."
Whether by antagonistic intent or selective memory lapse, Mr. Pallister seems to have no problem ignoring the fact that he, a scant couple of weeks ago, aggressively insinuated his administration into the affairs of municipal government by announcing that the province is launching a review of the way the City of Winnipeg and other local governments handle building-permit approvals and inspections.
One might be inclined to think most municipal leaders would consider local permit procedures and practices to be none of the premier’s business, but he pressed on undaunted, as is his wont.
The provincial-review announcement, it should be noted, came without any consultation with stakeholders that might be affected by such a review — consultation that might take place if, say, Mr. Pallister were to sit down with Mr. Bowman to discuss permits, funding models and other subjects of provincial-municipal import.
That hasn’t happened, of course, because Mr. Pallister doesn’t do meetings.
Well, not all the time, anyway.