By Jim Bender
Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson feels vindicated after getting re-elected on the weekend.
There had been a number of questions about the band’s finances in recent years, but Hudson still fended off all challengers in the election.
“The people have spoken and I look forward to serving them for two more years,” he said Sunday.
In 2012, a letter from the federal government’s audit branch to the chief and council of Peguis First Nation questioned payments to elected leaders, poorly-documented flood-related projects and dubious staff decisions.
“Those were all allegations and we’ve been audited since then and they’ve never found any improprieties,” Hudson said. “I stand firmly with our financial plans.”
In fact, Hudson said he believes he won the election because of some economic development plans. Those include a $17 million arena to be finished by this November and the building of 150 new homes over the next two or three years.
“We’ve done our work and the people have endorsed that,” he said.
Well, not all of them. Some candidates ran for council on the campaign promise of reducing their salaries if they were elected.
“When you make comparisons to those living on social assistance, it will captivate your audience,” Hudson said. “The fact is, we take our responsibilities very seriously.
“We’ve reduced our salaries over the last four years and we have put a cap on all of the board’s salaries and a cap on travel expenses.”
Hudson, whose salary has been reduced to $110,000 from $295,000, added that the band’s deficit has also been pared significantly.
“We’ve gotten our deficit down from $26 million to $14.1 million in six years,” he said. “I stand firmly on our financial plan. We have a better performance than either the provincial or federal government.”
Once the arena is finished, the Peguis reserve — located about 200 km north of Winnipeg — plans to bid for a Manitoba Junior Hockey League franchise, Hudson said. Hockey is very popular there and the band is fiercely proud of its Junior B franchise.
Hudson got 828 votes to beat four challengers: Cindy Spence, Gerald Slater, Darryl Sutherland and Dawn McCorrister.
Councillors Barry Tyler Bear, Darlene Debra Bird, Louis J. Stevenson and Mike Sutherland were all re-elected.
A total of 1,399 people voted in person at the reserve poll, 380 at the urban polling station, and 521 mail-in ballots were received, of which 21 were spoiled.
Salaries of Peguis staff in 2009, according to FIPPA-released audit:
•Chief Glenn Hudson — $295,000
•Since: Pay reduced to $111,000
•Councillor Mary Sutherland — $316,000
•Councillor Glen Cochrane — $369,000
•Councillor Darlene Bird — $382,000
•Councillor Glennis Sutherland — $373,000
— Source: Canadian Taxpayers Federation