Premier Daniel Johnson’s decision to hand the natural-resources and native-affairs portfolios to the same minister, Christos Sirros, is an ominous sign, says Kenny Blacksmith, deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees.

“We all know where Sirros is coming from, trying to promote negotiations on Great Whale,” Blacksmith said, “He’s been very aggressive on Great Whale and on the need for Crees to come to the table.”

Sirros, who has been Native Affairs Minister for the past three years, takes on the natural-resources job from Lise Bacon, who bailed out of politics at the same time as Robert Bourassa and many other Liberal heavyweights. Sirros told Canadian Press he won’t be in a conflict-of-interest holding down both jobs. “I’m the same person. I haven’t changed. I know the [aboriginal] issues and am sensitive to them and I also understand Quebec’s economic reality.”

But Blacksmith said it will be a “delicate balancing act” for Sirros to provide services to aboriginal people as Native Affairs Minister, while at the same time promoting the interests of Hydro-Quebec.

Blacksmith said Sirros’s appointment may be part of an effort by the Liberal government to start aggressively promoting the Great Whale project to Quebecers as a job-creation plan, in an effort to restore the party’s faltering popularity in time for the provincial election, which has to take place before the fall. “They’re probably going to home in on Great Whale and pressure the Crees,” Blacksmith said.