11 July 2011

You might know it as bribery, Ma’am

The eagle eyed nottawa picked up on something in a column by Michael Johansen at the Telegram.

It’s a reference to a cash payment due to the Innu of Labrador as part of the land claims deal they approved in a recent referendum. Johansen refers to it this way:  “the Innu would be paid $2 million within days as compensation for damage caused to them by the original Churchill Falls development.”

Nottawa points out that:

Payments - particularly those to be made within days - to groups or individuals contingent on their voting a certain way are generally frowned upon. In most cases, they're outright illegal.

Would no one be troubled, or at least curious enough to enquire if in the next election, I went knocking on doors with a campaign slogan like "Ten Grand In The Hand"?

Now if you look at the terms of the draft agreement released in 2008, the compensation payment is $2.0 million annually until 2041.  The payments start “upon ratification and execution of the” impacts and benefits agreement.

There’s no reference in the early draft to the money being compensation or anything of the sort.

“Compensation” came up in the news release the provincial government issued when it released the draft agreement.  It’s in the quote from no less a person than Premier Danny Williams.  He said the agreement included “redress on the upper Churchill hydroelectric development.”

A couple of paragraphs later, the magic word appears:

The agreement also provides compensation to the Labrador Innu for impacts associated with the Churchill Falls development. This settles the outstanding grievance of Innu Nation with respect to damages suffered to Innu lands and properties as a result of the flooding caused by the upper Churchill River development in the 1960s.

Now you wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to connect up the payment set out in the agreement and the references to compensation in the official government statements in 2008.  From the comment you get what the intention of the payment is, even if the agreement itself doesn’t state what the money is for.

But whether the idea of connecting acceptance of an agreement on a wide range of issues with a payment to redress a grievance causes very serious legal problems is another matter entirely.

That matter is serious, as nottawa is suggesting.

It is so serious, in fact, that someone needs to clarify this, sooner rather than later.

- srbp -