Thompson city council appointed five of its members to the team responsible for negotiating the next grant-in-lieu agreement with Vale at their Sept. 7 meeting.
The team includes Mayor Colleen Smook and deputy mayor Kathy Valentino as her alternate, along with councillors Brian Lundmark, Andre Proulx and Les Ellsworth.
Vale does not pay property taxes to the city, as its operations are outside city limits, but provides a grant instead. The negotiation discussions also include the School District of Mystery Lake and the Local Government District of Mystery Lake, but the minimum amount is set out in the 1956 agreement between Vale’s precursor Inco and the province of Manitoba and based on the number of workers Vale employs at its Manitoba Operations.
From 2018 to 2021, Vale paid $14.4 million to the City of Thompson – $4.8 million in the first year and $3 million in each of the next three years, along with an additional $600,000 voluntary payment in 2019. That was down from $6 million per year over the previous five years
Coun. Duncan Wong voted against the resolution appointing the team members, saying Ellsworth was the only one with negotiation skills and that a lead negotiator should be appointed.
“I literally have no hope for that negotiation,” he said.
The mayor was asked to recuse herself from negotiations by Coun. Earl Colbourne, who also voted against the resolution.
“You’re directly involved with Vale,” he said. “Our citizens don’t have a chance.”
Smook said her only financial involvement with Vale was when they rented her campground for an event.
“I do not feel that this is a conflict of interest,” she said.
The negotiating team was approved in a 5-2 vote.
Coun. Jeff Fountain abstained from voting because he is employed by Vale and Coun. Braden McMurdo was not at the meeting.