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New Métis government continues transition with more representatives

New representative Jason Ekeberg earns salary of $90,000

LAKELAND - The first-ever Otipemisiwak Métis Government continues to operate as the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA), says newly elected Otipemisiwak District 19 citizen representative Jason Ekeberg.

“There will be no immediate name change as we incorporate the process,” Ekeberg told Lakeland This Week. 

A general election for the first-ever Otipemisiwak Métis Government concluded on Sept. 19. The new government structure replaced the previous six regional zones of the MNA with 22 new districts. Ekeberg, who had been the MNA Region 1 vice-president for three years, was elected as the new District 19 Citizen Representative. A constitution ratified by MNA members in a province-wide referendum officially came into force following the election.The Otipemisiwak Métis Government of the Métis Nation within Alberta was officially formed at the same time.

Smaller areas

The new structure replaced the six provincial regions of the MNA with 22 districts. Ekeberg holds one of 52 new elected positions of the new provincial governing body, and was officially sworn into the Citizens’ Council of the Otipemisiwak Métis Government  on October 15. Ekeberg is the new citizens representative of District 19. The position of captain for District 19 has not been filled.

District 19 is one of six new areas that once made up all of the Region 1 area that took in the communities of Athabasca, Lac La Biche, Kikino, Conklin and Fort McMurray. District 19 now only includes the areas around Kikino, Lac La Biche and Imperial Mills..  

In the month since Ekeberg was sworn in as a district citizen representative in the Otipemisiwak government, the Metis Nation of Alberta has continued to operate in Alberta communities. Ekeberg says the two entities are existing together during a transition process. When asked if the transition might be confusing to the public, he said it wasn't.

“There is no confusion as we transition into our new Otipemisiwak Government, it does take time,” Ekeberg told Lakeland This Week.

When asked about other issues arising from the creation of a new government — things such as his local mandate, provincial and local issue, the effectiveness of moving from a six-regions to 22-districts ... and his salary, Ekeberg, suggested that the Lac La Biche Post newsroom contact the Métis Nations Chief Electoral Office (OCEO) “to discuss electoral questions. As they are best suited to answer salaries and election dates.” 

Karen Meurer is the associate director of Public Affairs with the Otipemisiwak Métis Government. She understands that there may be a lot of questions about the new government — especially since the Metis Nation of Alberta continues to operate. She says it is all part of the transition plan that was  This plan was developed in consultation with Métis citizens and approved by the Provincial Council in September of this year. 

“Efforts are currently underway to update public-facing branding to reflect this transition and we are committed to keeping our Citizens and the public informed throughout this process,” Meurer told Lakeland This Week, explaining that no matter what name is being used, the work continues to be be done.  

“The Government is fully functioning and continues to provide services to citizens, and the Citizens’ Council and Cabinet both meet regularly,” she said.  

Pay-cheques and more elections

When asked about the salary structure of the new Métis government's publicly funded positions, she said Ekeberg's role as a citizen representative is full-time, with a $90,000 annual salary, plus travel expenses.

The pay allowances for elected members are also part of the documented Opipemisiwak governing policies. 

“This is a full-time, elected role with a four-year term as set out in the Otipemisiwak Métis Government Constitution, Election and Referenda Act, and Self-Government Act,” she said.  

Regarding the election of a captain for District 19, Meurer explained, as set out in the transition plan, existing local councils of the Métis Nation of Alberta may shift to become district councils by adopting bylaws that are consistent with the Otipemisiwak Métis Government Constitution and laws. Upon adoption of new bylaws, a district council election must be called within 180 days. 

“The process for transition and election of District Council applies to Lac La Biche Métis District 19 as it does with all 22 Métis Districts in Alberta,” she explained.  

Prior to the creation of the new governing body, the Metis Nation of Alberta was said to have approximately 64,000 eligible voting members across the province.The new government was elected with 8,167 ballots cast. More than half of the elections for positions in the new government were won by acclamation.

In District 19, Ekeberg was elected with 165 votes. Two other candidates for the district, Jerry Ladouceur and Dwayne Roth received 36 and 34 votes respectively. In the St. Paul, Bonnyville and Cold Lake region — now called District 12, Karen Collins was elected as the new citizen representative. In the same district, Bernie Poitras has been selected to the position of District Captain.

Provincially, Andrea Sandmaier is the new Citizens Council president, replacing MNA president Audrey Poitras who announced her resignation from the association earlier in the year after holding the position for 27 years. 

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