In speaking only for myself and not the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) I have concerns about Six Nations’ participation in the Hydro One Sale deal.
First of all, some councillors were absent, including myself, when the decision was made to sign on to this deal. Given the importance of the decision full council should have been present. Had I been at this meeting I would have voted “no” because I felt ill-prepared to make such a decision. So, I’m writing this letter to explain why. I believe the people who elected me as a district councillor have a right to know.
Firstly, I didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision. I’II be the first to say understanding and making corporate level business deals is way beyond my business acumen and comprehension. Also, the timeframe from when Premier Wynn offered the deal to First Nations and the signing deadline was too rushed. We were asked over a matter of months to commit Six Nations to a $259 million loan payable over 25 years.
Secondly, we never consulted with the community. We only held three district meetings (5 and 6 combined and 1, 2, 3 combined and 4 was stand-alone) and did an online/paper survey that proved to be useless. According to the Hydro One Sale plan we had from June 2017 to November 2017 to hold consultations.
Thirdly, according to the plan the gaming funding formula (Ontario First Nations Limited Partnership) which is based on population will be used in the interim which is very beneficial to Six Nations. However, there’s a fight brewing between South and North First Nations to change the funding formula. The North want a significant financial increase to the remoteness factor while the South wants to protect the population factor. If the South loses Six Nations will see a significant decrease to its funding allocation. So, at this point in time we can’t predict how much money Six Nations will get from this Hydro deal.
Frankly speaking, I still think there’s more to this deal than meets the eye. I voiced my concerns at the council table and through numerous emails. I was concerned because the people who met with council to provide information and answer questions were the very people appointed by the Chiefs of Ontario (COO), or hired, to go out and sell the deal to First Nation communities. So, they made it sound like it was the best thing to happen this side of the Grand River. I know enough about business deals to know there is always a pros and cons side. In all fairness, Chief Hill did tell me to write my questions and concerns down and said she would get someone to answer them. But I expected it would be COO staff so I didn’t see any point.
Anyway here is some of what I asked chief and council prior to signing the agreement: For someone to go over the agreement with council page by page or at least the important pages. That didn’t happen. Council wasn’t given a copy of the actual agreement which would have included the terms and conditions. All council had was a one-page summary and Webinar materials like a 48-page report that wasn’t available to council at first because Chief Hill said it was confidential. How can it be confidential to council, I asked, when council is the one who has to make the decision? Eventually we got the report but that too was just a summary.
I wanted council to see the pros and cons of the agreement and to have a legal opinion. These didn’t happen. Chief Hill said COO had gotten a legal analysis. But I wanted Six Nations to have its own. I wanted community meetings. That didn’t happen. I asked if the Hydro One Sale deal would be presented to the HCCC. That didn’t happen.
Furthermore, the organizational chart of the Hydro One Sale limited partnership (LP) has Ontario First Nations (OFN) Sovereign Wealth Fund LP, OFN Power Holdings LP & OFN Capital Wealth Fund LP as well as a couple other committees. This suggests a bureaucracy. And it will be the 129 First Nations footing the bill so that alone will significantly diminish Six Nations benefits.
Another concern was according to the documentation the OFN Sovereign Wealth Fund LP, the head honcho of this deal, is to consist of “Tribal Councils”. I reminded Chief Hill Six Nations is not a tribal council. She assured me Six Nations would have a seat at this table. I asked for that assurance be included in the agreement. That didn’t happen.
The past five years has been frustrating for me because whenever I don’t follow the party line, whenever I raise concerns or ask the tough questions I’m accused of being negative and not listened to. But even so I continued to push for more information on this hydro deal. The thing is, I’m 74 years old so in all likelihood in 25 years when the loan is paid I’ll be gone to the spirit world. So, I won’t be here to witness if this deal is beneficial to Six Nations or not. For the betterment of our future generations I sincerely hope my concerns and reservations are unfounded.
Six Nations Elected Councillor Helen Miller