Finding the stepping stones

In a column last January, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gerald Flood showed that former premier Gary Doer screwed up the consultation process with First Nations Communities. In choosing a route for the Manitoba Hydro Bi-Pole III, the east side had always been Hydro’s first choice. Doer completely screwed up communication with the 16 east side First Nations communities and opted to move the route to the western side of the province. You can check out the story for yourself at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/westview/west-side-emperor-starkers-82578727.html
Gerald Flood was one of the people who interviewed me as part of an FP editorial board when I ran for the PC leadership in 2006. He and the Freep were only a  bit sympathetic to my stand against on the Bi-Pole III route and so it bites a bit now that the FP has taken one of my platforms and said that’s the way it should be. Life goes on and we just smile and move on.
What Flood doesn’t mention in this article is that one of Premier Doer’s last tasks as premier was to give $10 million (October 2009) to the group called Pimachiowin Aki. This is a small group who have built a web site and it appears not much else to date. The lady, Sophia Rabliauskas, is aboriginal. She  runs Pimachiowin Aki, is married to a Russian, Ray Rabliauskas, Lands Management Coordinator,who is an administrator on her home reserve, Poplar River.
You can verify the $10 million grant at: http://www.pimachiowinaki.org/our-news/10-million-trust-fund-established-support-pimachiowin-aki-world-heritage-site
You can check out the Pimachiowin Aki web site at: http://www.pimachiowinaki.org/
Now there’s more money going into Pimachiowin Aki. The Winnipeg Sun says on November 8, 2010:”The Winnipeg Foundation announced today that they have partnered with several First Nations to campaign to have the boreal forest declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The Campaign for the Land that Gives Life has received a generous contribution from the Manitoba Government of $10 million to start an endowment fund with the Winnipeg Foundation. Pimachiowin Aki, a corporation comprised of five First Nations and the provincial governments of Manitoba and Ontario, are “raising funds to take care of a place that is a wonder of the world,” said spokesperson Sophia Rabliauskas.The endowment fund is being taken care of by the Winnipeg Foundation and with the funds from the Manitoba government, they are halfway to their proposed goal of $20 million.“Our goal is sustained in meaningful impact,” said Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation. The Winnipeg Foundation will be matching donations nine to one. “This land is important to the world.” To donate or for more information, visit www.landthatgiveslife.com”
I would sure like to see the books for Pimachiowin Aki and I hope the Winnipeg Foundation has done their due diligence.
This whole issue is a thinly veiled scam. The eastern boreal forest is thousands of square miles of non-descript and actually quite common bush land. If in fact it is to become a UNESCO Heritage site, it will be of no more significance than hundreds of other sites across Canada. The irony is that the group wants people to come and see and enjoy the natural beauty of the land but without  a road, how is anyone supposed to get there? Tourists tend not to like expensive local air flights or winter roads in January.
The whole scheme is ridiculous, made even more so by claims of being “pristine”. It’s far from pristine. I have first hand reports that it may be pristine if you don’t count the 16 communities that are there, including one of 10,000 people. It may be pristine if you don’t count the sewage going into the lakes, if you don’t count the burnt out cars and snowmobiles. If you don’t count the thousands of liquor bottles that have been cast aside along the riverbanks  by paddlers, hikers, sports fishers and hunters. If you don’t count the fact that these communities can’t afford basic infrastructure let alone proper land fills or recycling. If you think recycling is expensive in southern Manitoba, try paying to truck your drink cans and old papers to a recycling plant over winter roads.
Gary Doer got a 10 year free ride in the media because he was charming, he played the media like a cheap fiddle and he would sit down and “have a beer” with the boys and girls of the media. In case that didn’t keep the news hounds at bay, he would pour huge dollars into Manitoba’s news leader, the Winnipeg Free Press (eg. the Spirited Energy Campaign governed by a board that included the Freep owner). If that didn’t work he could always lean on a pack of attack hounds that would regularly be turned loose on anyone who dared oppose him. I have experienced that tactic personally. Then if all else failed, Doer would scream that the “Conservatives fired 1,500 nurses in the 1990s” which is a total lie.
Doer was good at one thing and that was simple math. He learned early on in his career in the union halls and church basement union meetings that you don’t have to get everyone out to vote for you. All you need is 30 per cent. Half the people don’t show up to vote so a solid and committed 30 per cent support translates into 60 per cent of the votes actually cast and makes you the winner.
It’s galling to think that Manitoba has been controlled by a leader and a party that has the confirmed and dedicated support of a very well organized 30 per cent minority.
That’s how Gary Doer was able to give away taxpayers money to fund a “pristine forest” myth, a scam, $10 million to be exact, even as he walked out the door on his way to being Canada’s ambassador to the U.S..
I believe that history will verify this story and further that Gary Doer will end up with a plum position at UNESCO or in a United Nations environment post. He’s only been on the ambassador job for 18 months in Washington and has received an award for meritorious service. Oh yes, the “pristine boreal forest” has has some creeks with stepping stones in them and Gary Doer has always been able to find the stepping stones. It’s just too bad for Manitobans, and especially for First Nations Manitobans, that his steps have been so self-centred.

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