APTN National News
A group of councillors from a Saskatchewan First Nation defended a controversial deal with TransCanada on the Energy East pipeline project saying it will provide the community with much needed money for overdue infrastructure projects.
The Carry the Kettle First Nation councillors were responding to a broadside against the deal from band Chief Barry Kennedy, who is running for re-election. Kennedy accused the council of making a bad deal and he said TransCanada was guilty of underhanded tactics by pushing to secure an agreement before the planned March 31 band election.
“Our community members want jobs, our unemployment rate is high, if you are suggesting we wait for infrastructure and employment, I don’t think so,” said Coun. Victor Prettyshield. “(TransCanada) is making an unprecedented deal and if you are saying, ‘Is it a good deal? I am insulted by the question.”
Five of Carry the Kettle’s councillors supported the deal. Four of the councillors participated in a conference call with APTN National News Thursday. Prettyshield, who is running for re-election, acted as the main spokesperson for the group during the conference call.
Carry the Kettle is a Nakota First Nation with about 3,000 band members. The Treaty 4 First Nation sits about 80 kilometres east of Regina. The band goes to the polls every two years. Seven people are running for chief and 37 people are running for six council spots.
Prettyshield said the proposed deal with TransCanada on the Energy East project is still not finalized because it needs community consultation and a final band council resolution. Both won’t happen until after the election, he said.
The terms on the table are better than what other First Nations would get from TransCanada on the Energy East project, said Prettyshield.
“It is exclusive and it was recommended to us by our negotiators,” said Prettyshield. “This is as good as the ones in Fort McMurray, Alta.”
The $18 million deal between Carry the Kettle and TransCanada would allow the energy firm to repurpose pipelines crossing through reserve lands for the proposed Energy East project.
Five TransCanada pipelines cross through Carry the Kettle’s reserve territory and the energy firm is looking to repurpose three of those pipelines, which currently carry natural gas, to transport oil for the $15 billion Energy East project to move Alberta and Saskatchewan oil to Saint John, N.B., for refining.
The federal Liberal government will make a final decision on the proposed pipeline project in mid-2018.
Prettyshield said TransCanada initially only put $10 million on the table.
“We negotiated hard for that $18 million,” said Prettyshield.
He said the deal could see Carry the Kettle reap up to $30 million in total as a result of joint ventures and contracts associated with the Energy East project.
The money is needed for a new firetruck, a new administration building, a senior’s home, an expansion of the store and the construction of a community centre with an ice rink, he said.
The 20-year deal would see Carry the Kettle receive $11 million in payments for the historical trespass of TransCanada’s pipelines through the reserve, plus $7 million in phases from the Energy East project.
“We know oil is not going away in the next 20 years. That is what you have to look at also too,” said Prettyshield. “You have to work with companies that have had pipelines in the ground for the last 50 years that are going to be around for the next 20 years.”
Elsie Jack used to work for TransCanada and joined the Carry the Kettle negotiating team last year. She says the deal is the result of months of hard work.
“I feel that we did get a deal that was beneficial to the membership as a whole,” said Jack, who is also running for chief.
The Carry the Kettle side was helped by a consultant Jack Tanner—whose salary was paid by TransCanada.
Tanner sent the councillors a media statement to bolster their position.
“This agreement is unprecedented and to my knowledge is the first of its kind in the province of Saskatchewan and is exceptional for (TransCanada) to have agreed to such an agreement,” said Tanner, in the statement. “The (Carry the Kettle) council participated in the intense negotiations in a professional and united way. In my opinion they all behaved in a manner protecting the interests and obtaining the best deal possible for their First Nation.”
Prettyshield said TransCanada is not out to pull a fast one on First Nations. He said the company is willing to negotiate beneficial agreements. Prettyshield said other First Nations should take note when entering into talks with the energy giant.
“Have an open mind and move on from the past and look to the future,” he said.
It’s easy for Kennedy to sit on the sidelines and throw stones at the deal because he had nothing to do with it, said Prettyshield. He said Kennedy missed the majority of meetings dealing with the TransCanada deal.
Kennedy is currently involved in litigation with the band council who haven’t paid his salary for about a year.
The council stripped Kennedy of his portfolios after the chief was removed from the boards of the File hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Councils in 2014 following an incident involving “intimidation” of an employee, according to a band council resolution.
Kennedy said he did lose his cool with a tribal council employee because he was sticking up for a band member who was being kicked out of their home at midnight.
Prettyshield also forwarded information against Kennedy around the renting of a bouncy castle and the sale of a bailer to the band.
“All this is a defamation of character,” said Kennedy. “We got them caught with their pants down and hands out and now they are trying to get back at me.”