There was a day when Hydro could be trusted and its original purposes, enshrining adequate and secure electricity at lowest cost, were honoured. That day has long passed. Now, directed by a sorry bunch of NDP politicians, Hydro marches to a different drum. The once proud utility now resembles its task master, the Selinger government: spending, borrowing, wasting, lying.
Recently, Manitobans were shocked to learn that while the provincial government preached its odd form of fiscal restraint it supported massive pay increases for Hydro’s executives. The biggest winner, Hydro’s dropout President, having given notice that he will bail before his first contract term ends, doesn’t even want to be here. His reward, a pay jump of $63,000, a sum more than the average household’s total annual income.
Just what have Hydro’s executives done that deserves such rewards? They have pushed ahead the government’s outdated and unwise Hydro expansion plan, ignoring a changed market, with no regard for prudent spending or honest forecasting.
We were told that Bipole 3 was necessary for “reliability” purposes. Not so, increased reliability could be gained at a much lower cost. We were told “no need to worry”, Bipole 3 would be paid for by Americans. Not so, we were duped. PUB confirms that we will pay for Bipole 3 and the cost will be so high that rates need to be jerked up now to lessen the toll of massive rate shocks later.
We were told that the Wuskwatim generating station would be built for under $1 billion, bringing profits from the same American utilities that would pay for Bipole 3. Not so, Wuskwatim cost $2 billion not one, and the Americans have no intention to pay for it either. Wuskwatim’s failure already add to our growing Hydro bills.
We were told that Hydro would build a new head office in downtown Winnipeg, with the extra annual costs covered by reductions in Hydro’s staff and closing redundant rented properties. Hydro first forecast the cost of the building at $75 million. A few years later, they upped that estimate to $150 million. Now, they admit a cost of $283 million. As for covering off extra annual costs by personnel reductions, forget that, Hydro’s payroll has leaped up not ratcheted down.
We were told that, in buying Winnipeg Hydro at a price favouring the City, reasonable expenditures would be required to update the City’s aging generating stations and distribution network. The first estimate of repairs required for the Pointe du Bois generating station was quite modest. Now we hear it will end up costing $600 million just to renew the station’s spillway. To replace the dam, another $1 billion and a half.
It would be hard to find an estimate of a cost or a projection of increased revenues (other than from ratepayers) that Hydro has provided that is even remotely close to what is unfolding.
All this reminds me of a sick accounting joke. It goes like this; what is two plus two? I suspect a honest Hydro answer would be: what would you like it to be?
We’ve been taken, the shameful executive payoff raises are but the icing on a cake that has long gone bad.