By: Graham Lane
Published: February 6, 2017, Winnipeg Sun
Sanford Riley, Chair of Manitoba Hydro’s board of directors, recently announced that 900
employees would be let go along with three sacrificial executives. Furthermore, he forecasts a
series of double-digit annual rate increases – unless a desperately needed government bailout
No real surprise to the many knowledgeable critics of Hydro’s expansion, just far too late to save
ratepayers’ and taxpayers’ hides.
Premier Pallister, before the election, pledged to stop Bipole III and hold a public review of the
highly questionable $25-billion plan. Virtually every critic believed him, rejoicing in the upcoming
demise of the NDP government’s control over Hydro.
The problem is Pallister broke his promises and let the expensive boondoggle continue while his
new board studied the situation. It is impossible for Brian Pallister to not have known that
Hydro’s expansion was highly questionable. Yet, he allowed the expansion to continue while his
new board got up to speed: a very bad decision.
Pallister was ‘buried’ by information and advice from many experienced professionals and
experts that had studied Hydro’s plans. Their concerns were articulated in extensive studies and
media reports, all based on relevant market research and valid risk concerns. Unanimously,
they lobbied Pallister and his colleagues, seeking an immediate halt and inquiry upon a PC
election win. Before the election, Pallister welcomed all efforts to save the public’s purse.
Pallister won the election but, surprise surprise, and despite further urging by many
knowledgeable critics, he didn’t follow through. He brought in a new-to-hydro board which spent
about $10 million a day before coming to the same conclusion as the critics had laid out in
graphic detail well before. The problem with the new board was they didn’t realize the depth of
the hole that the NDP dug for Hydro. As a result, the new board and Pallister’s government
continued the Bipole III, Keeyask dam, and Minnesota tie-line projects.
A big mistake by the new board and Premier Pallister; a tragedy for Manitobans.
The result of the long delay before what was already known became accepted by the new board
is that billions of dollars more will be lost, billions that will likely be collected in the future from
ratepayers, including suffering lower-income households heating their homes electrically.
We will see energy poverty if Pallister’s government doesn’t pick up the tab and leaving industry
and the general economy to be seriously damaged for generations to come. If Pallister had
stopped the madcap building spree right after the election — as he promised — further wasted
billions could have been saved.
Blame the NDP; blame Hydro executives; blame the old and new Hydro boards; even blame the
opposition parties during the NDP years: yes! But, in particular, now also blame Mr. Pallister.
His blunder should be recognized and acted upon immediately. His incredible mistake will likely
have a greater impact on our economy than all the other decisions combined that the PCs make
during this term.
His blunder is so big in fact that Mr. Pallister should step down and enjoy his Costa Rican
property. Let the PCs elect a new leader and Premier, one that would listen and work for the
people of Manitoba, starting by authorizing the promised, but never held, broad independent
inquiry of Hydro.
Ratepayers and taxpayers deserve nothing less.
Graham Lane leads Manitoba Forward (manitobaforward.ca).
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