Winnipeg Free Press
CANADA’S environmental groups handed Premier Greg Selinger a first-ever award Monday night for his government’s work in protecting the east side of the province from hydro development.
The inaugural Environmental Leadership Award was presented at a reception at the legislative building at the same time angry farmers filled a committee room in the same building to decry the Bipole III transmission line and what it means to the possible loss of their land.
The environmentalists said the award, also presented to the Pimachiowin Aki Corp., reinforces their position the decision to build Bipole III down the west side of the province is the best one for all Manitobans. The Pimachiowin Aki Corp., a partnership of five First Nations, is leading the push to have a 40,000-square-kilometre area designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Eric Hébert-Daly, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said despite the controversy over Bipole III’s route, it’s essentially a done deal.
Hébert-Daly said the process to date has moved far along enough that to reverse it would end up with court challenges and jeopardize lucrative export power deals with Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“It’s unrealistic that if the government all of a sudden changed its mind and wanted to drive this transmission line through that area, I think it’s unrealistic that those five First Nations would say, ‘OK, great, hunky dory, let’s go,” said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.
“There are very considerable unknowns and at the very least significant process problems with the government changing its mind.”
The province said Monday three First Nations on the east side have taken steps to permanently protect their traditional lands and ensure any new development be conducted with their collaboration.
Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie said Poplar River First Nation had formally submitted its Asatiwisipe Aki Management Plan to the Manitoba government for approval.
The proposed plan, which would protect traditional lands, will be made available for public review in the upcoming months.