Liberal scheme to sell Hydro shares to First Nations a sham: Indigenous Circle

TORONTO, July 18, 2016 /CNW/ - The Indigenous Circle of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has denounced the Liberal government's tentative agreement with the Chiefs-in-Assembly of Ontario's First Nations to sell 2.5 per cent of its shares in Hydro One to a new First Nations investment corporation.

The agreement includes a $268-million, 25-year-term loan to help First Nations purchase the shares. It also includes $45 million to create a First Nations investment body to hold the shares. The initiative would require ratification by 80 per cent of First Nations communities by the end of 2017 in order to go forward.

Community response to the Liberal plan has been unfavourable. With the high cost of electricity – particularly acute in the North – many First Nations members do not want the government to proceed with the sell-off of Hydro One.

"The government calls the plan 'meaningful,'" said Krista Maracle, chair of the Indigenous Circle, "but I don't see a connection between privatizing Hydro and beneficial changes to our service and rates. And I seriously question whether a further 30 per cent sale of Hydro One will help First Nations across the province."

Maracle added, "We're very wary of this agreement. It looks more like a public relations ploy to make the government appear to be working with our Nations – while it achieves its own ends. It won't improve our nation-to-nation relations."

Geri Kakeeway, an Indigenous Circle member from Kenora, was also critical of the government's scheme, given that private companies like Hydro One are legally obligated to hold their debtors liable.

"I'm curious about this so-called 'creation of wealth' model touted by the government and based on the shareholder system," said Kakeeway. "Does this mean First Nations would administer the poverty of their communities and be responsible for collecting unpaid hydro bills?

"With communities struggling under the weight of deteriorating housing, inadequate health care and underfunded schools," she continued, "this scheme proposes no relief, no solutions. How is this promise different from the long list of broken promises made to Indigenous communities over the years?"

The Indigenous Circle is made up of Indigenous OPSEU members from across the province committed to educating and advocating their true history and sharing their diverse culture and heritage with others.

SOURCE Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: Krista Maracle, 647-200-4036


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