WINNIPEG - The chief of the Berens River First Nation is raising concern over the Manitoba government's decision to hand out termination notices to all 80 employees of the East Side Road Authority.
Chief Hartley Everett says he and other indigenous leaders want assurances from the Conservative government of Premier Brian Pallister that an all-weather road on the east side of Lake Winnipeg will go ahead.
He says they also want to know that local residents will be hired to help build that road.
The Conservative government announced in May that it intended to dissolve the East Side Road Authority and roll it into the Infrastructure Department.
Infrastructure Minister Blaine Pedersen said in a news release Tuesday that the entire ESRA staff will be let go Nov. 25, though some may be able to apply for other government jobs.
Former ESRA chief executive officer Ernie Gilroy charged Tuesday that the termination of all 80 employees is bad news all around.
He told the Winnipeg Free Press that it's bad news for the all-weather road, for government workers and for indigenous people hoping for jobs on government construction projects. "It's just begun," Gilroy said. "What I see here is the dismantling of the project, not ESRA."
Pedersen said in the release that in the coming weeks, his government will submit proposals to the federal government for cost-sharing projects on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
"Whereas the previous government made infrastructure decisions based on political motivation, we will select projects in line with Manitoba Infrastructure's commitment to ensuring value for money," he said, referencing the former NDP government.
The multimillion-dollar project linked Provincial Road 304 to the Bloodvein First Nation in 2014. Construction has continued 50 kilometres northward to Berens River, and is scheduled to reach the community in 2019-20.
The 30-year project would eventually link 36,000 people, most of them First Nations residents, to the south.