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Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 12/07/2017
Till debt do us part
Let us look back a little as to what we expect of our politicians and those who handle our taxes.

The NDP government created a huge debt when they decided to build the hydro line on the west side of Lake Manitoba versus a shorter route. This was done to enable us to export more electricity. Since we in Manitoba are already paying more for our electricity than we are getting paid for it when we export it to the U.S., this is a debt that Manitobans are inheriting from the previous government. The sad part is that it is not only we who are being penalized, but also our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will have to repay the debt.

Now Hydro finds itself in a bind and raises rates. We don’t like that. What choice do they have? The politicians didn’t seem to have the foresight to know that debt must be paid back, or did they know better but just didn’t care? Now we blame the next government for cutting back, trying to control wages. What else can they do?

The federal Liberals are spending money without any thought as to how or who is going to pay for it. Now they are doing the same thing the NDP did. It does not take talent to spend money.

Too bad that we, and the generations after us, are left to pay the debt they are creating. In the future, let us elect politicians with the foresight to limit our spending to within their own lifetime.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 12/07/2017
Hydro mismanaged
By: GLEN WILGOSH, Winnipeg
Re: Hydro chairman urges rate hike relief (Dec. 2)

Manitobans cannot take more huge Hydro rate increases.

We pay our fair share already, through our provincial taxes and our monthly hydro bills. We are fed up with poor management of Hydro and the previous provincial government putting Manitoba Hydro into the state they are in.

The 7.9 per cent increase is the start; from there it snowballs.

Businesses increase prices to compensate, fuel goes up and on and on.

This will particularly affect seniors and veterans on fixed income, low-income families and small businesses.

I can remember a few years back, Hydro was more affordable than natural gas, but that has flipped.

Residents are already paying $400 to $500 a month in winter for heat and lights — and these homes are well insulated with new windows, etc.

The residents of our great province are fed up with the mismanagement of Hydro.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 12/06/2017
A 7.9 percent hydro increase? Are you kidding?
By: AL YAKIMCHUK, Winnipeg
It’s amazing how the local media let politicians off the hook for the problems they helped create. For years, all we heard from former premier Greg Selinger was of his push for Bipole III and the Keeyask generating station. Not to forget the billions of dollars it was going to cost, during an especially prolonged period of slow out-of-province hydro sales. Billions more were added to the cost due to Selinger’s insistence that Bipole III had to run on the west side of Lake Winnipeg instead of the cheaper east side.

The local media have chosen to give Selinger a "pass," allowing him to hide in the weeds away from explaining to taxpayers why he has placed this province into financial crisis for generations to come.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 11/29/2017
Hydro hikes outrageous
By: Rozalia Kennedy, Winnipeg
Manitoba Hydro wants a 7.9 per cent increase for five years running and 4.54 per cent increase in 2024. On top of that, they talk about the pursuit of "additional sales of ‘surplus’ electricity outside of Manitoba." If we have a surplus, why are they asking for these outrageous increases? Why are they "short of cash" needed to fund core operations over the next five years?

I say dump the Keeyask generating station and Bipole III. The market for electricity is down, the availability of cheap natural gas-fired generation, resulting in lower electricity on the short-term opportunity market, as they say, has made this building of the Keeyask and Bipole III "unreasonable" burdens on the people of this province.

Are we on the road to the crisis they have in Ontario, where people’s hydro bills are almost as much as their mortgages? This is our resource, Manitoba’s, which many of us believe should grant us an affordable rate of hydro and perhaps even a bonus cheque once and a while for the sale of hydro power outside the province.

Premier Pallister and the Public Utilities Board: do something! Put people in Hydro management willing to get that company balanced without driving our rates through the roof.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/23/2017
New reality for Hydro
By: Garland Laliberte, Winnipeg, Bipole III Coalition
Re: Hydro rate hikes needed (Letters, Sept. 19.) see below.

Sanford Riley and the Manitoba Hydro board make the case for increasing hydro rates in terms of the need to address Hydro’s weakened financial position. He correctly characterizes the problem as one arising from "projects undertaken by previous boards and government — with no realistic plan to pay for them." He is right when he states that "Hydro’s situation is increasingly weakening Manitoba’s credit position."

But why do he and the Hydro board assume that the solution is to run to the ratepayer to bail it out?

The global market for electricity has been changing rapidly for a decade now. Fracked gas put the market on a different tack way back in 2007. The economic downturn in 2008 forced successful businesses to run a tighter ship. Conservation and efficiency measures are reducing per capita consumption.

The rapidly decreasing cost of solar and wind are challenging hydro as a source of clean energy. In some jurisdictions, parity with conventional sources (the point where solar and wind become cheaper) has already been reached. Yet Hydro treats solar as an "emerging technology" with nothing to worry about until 10 years out. Just about every power utility in North America is wrestling with market change, adapting their business accordingly.

So what are we doing in Manitoba? Hydro has admitted in its present rate request that Keeyask energy is not needed until after 2041. With this glut affecting Hydro’s ability to export its surplus energy at a fair price, the provincial government exacerbates the problem by mandating domestic energy savings larger than Hydro has ever achieved with its Power Smart programs. Amazing!

Staff cuts are fine, but where, for example, is the focused effort in Hydro to promote electric and hybrid vehicles (cars, trucks and buses)? Why isn’t Hydro taking more of a leadership role in promoting a western transmission grid that would allow Hydro to sell more of its electric capacity to Saskatchewan and Alberta? If Hydro were more aggressive on these fronts, we would not need eight per cent rate hikes over each of the next seven years.

The risks are financial (as well as drought, as Riley points out, and rising interest rates to name another). But the greater risk is that the leadership in Hydro hasn’t yet seen the light. It treats the present glut as something that just happened — something that can be easily fixed by rate hikes. Hydro is not adjusting to the new reality.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/20/2017
Hydro rate hikes needed
By: H. SANFORD RILEY, Chair, Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board
Re: Hydro’s power play verges on arrogance (Sept. 16)

Columnist Dan Lett offered a number of selective assertions regarding Manitoba Hydro’s current financial picture that deserve proper context for a complete view of the situation surrounding our rate application at the Public Utilities Board (PUB), which I and nine other members of Manitoba Hydro’s board would like to address here.

As a board, we have approved a 10-year plan to restore Manitoba Hydro’s financial strength and protect ratepayers and taxpayers from the real risks presented by the company’s current, financially weakened state.

This plan is required because Manitoba Hydro has more than $14 billion in major projects undertaken by previous boards and government — with no realistic plan to pay for them. We believe it is our responsibility as a board to deal with this issue, no matter how difficult, because we know how Hydro’s situation is increasingly weakening Manitoba’s credit position. We understand there are no easy answers.

Our plan is designed to rebuild the equity of Manitoba Hydro within a short enough period that we can protect Manitobans from the consequences of several major operating risks the utility faces — including drought, a risk Lett himself acknowledged.

What Lett opted not to share is that Manitoba Hydro is currently cash-flow negative and, without the rate increases we have requested, will continue to experience material cash funding deficits that can be covered only by more borrowing. The longer we wait to address this, the longer the period of rate adjustments will be required.

The requirement to extend the forecast period of higher rate increases is therefore the logical outcome of the PUB’s decision to defer acting on our requested higher rate increase pending the outcome of the full rate review. It was certainly not a simple or casual decision, as Lett implied. This is what we have communicated to the PUB.

In its order on our interim rate application, the PUB noted that they needed to have access to all of the data and information that Manitoba Hydro was relying upon before they could make a significant rate increase of the type we were requesting.

The public hearings relating to our rate application begin in December. We look forward to sharing in detail with the PUB and with all Manitobans the reasons why Manitoba Hydro must see its financial strength restored.

This is an issue that arouses passions on all sides — ours included. We are proud Manitobans. It is very distressing for us to see the current financial malaise affecting what we have always considered to be Manitoba’s crown jewel. As the stewards of Manitoba Hydro, we understand it is our responsibility to restore Manitoba Hydro’s financial strength to protect future generations of Manitobans, who will face serious financial consequences if we do not act, with purpose, now.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 07/25/2017
Legacy of debt
Re: Manitoba Hydro argues future at risk without rate hike (July 19)

Thank you, NDP. The lies are over, now the truth is being told. Manitoba Hydro lawyer Patti Ramage now tells us the export revenues are down $880 million and export prices are down 30 per cent.

What happened to all the claims made previously by the NDP, that our Hydro was going to be Manitoba’s oil? Gary Doer’s dream of the east side of Lake Winnipeg becoming a UNESCO site is now a nightmare, with the Bipole III now running down the west side of Lake Winnipeg at an additional cost of millions of dollars, let alone the millions of dollars more in line loss annually.

Ramage states that "once it comes on stream it generates minimal revenue," adding that when it does come on stream there will still be a $205-million "deficiency" in revenue every year. Who in their right mind would have developed a business plan that loses that much money every year?

Now we find out that Hydro has spent so many millions, if not billions, on Bipole III and Keeyask, that it is impossible to shelve the project and they still need to borrow $12 billion over the next five years to complete the generating station.

Yes, thank you, NDP — you have saddled us and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren to pay for your inability to be responsible to those elected you to govern our province.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 07/21/2017
Hydro hikes need explanation
By: NORMA JONES, Winnipeg
Re: Need for Hydro rate hikes questioned at PUB hearing (July 19)

The Public Utilities Board is requesting proof that Manitoba Hydro needs higher rates, a 7.9 per cent increase beginning Aug. 1, followed by the same increases for the next five years, to survive. Unfortunately, the credit rating agencies will not allow their reports to be included in the process.

It has been reported that Hydro is projecting a $50-million profit in 2016-17. Over time, there have been some highly questionable decisions made.The placement of the Bipole III transmission line added about $1 billion to the original cost. The Keeyask generating station project has, apparently, gone 34 per cent over budget.

Unfortunately, there has been insufficient information to explain the rate increases. It is very sad but true that the 7.9 per cent rate increases could present significant challenges to low-income homeowners, especially rural families as they do not have access to natural gas.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 05/29/2017
Steven Fletcher’s gumption
By: NEIL STEWART, Killarney
Re: Pallister dodges questions on discipline for Fletcher’s filibustering (May 24)

Conservative MLA Steven Fletcher is opposing his own government’s bill to create a new Crown corporation because he thinks it will be wasteful, unnecessary and a bad idea. We should all be grateful he takes this position, whether or not we agree with the proposed legislation.

The job of a politician is to act for the good of the people, not for a political party. Few politicians show such gumption. Most stifle any doubts about their party’s positions in hope of someday advancing beyond the back bench. Such is the power of party structures in Canada that a successful career in politics depends on not doing your job by putting people first.

Premier Brian Pallister considers Conservative MLAs to be part of a team, accountable to the team rather than to the people of Manitoba. By this, he means they should not act as individuals, but toe the line and support all decisions made secretly in caucus. There will then be no meaningful public debate, as those decisions will automatically be passed by the party’s majority in the legislature.

Politics should not be a sport in which one team’s purpose is to defeat the other. Any teamwork should be for the good of the people. This means having team members of diverse opinions who can speak freely without fear of retribution. Such people are not a threat to a party, but are necessary for wise governance.

Again, Mr. Fletcher, thank you. We need many more politicians with the integrity to act as you have done.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 05/11/2017
Doer in the news again
Re: Former Manitoba premier to swing axe for Alberta’s softwood lumber industry (May 8)

My congratulations to Gary Doer for landing this important job, and I am sure he will do admirable work for the government of Alberta.

Perhaps, though, he should have been hired by Manitoba to peddle some of the power generated by the dams that were initiated in his governing days in Manitoba. Ideally, he would sell it at the market rate the consumer in Manitoba pays, and not the current cut rate for exported electricity.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 05/10/2017
Fumbling on Hydro
We are now facing rate increases that will total approximately 35 to 40 per cent in five years. Former premier Greg Selinger and his gang refused to listen to former Hydro executives and engineers who stated that the location of Bipole III was wrong. But what do they know? Typical NDP! Manitoba used to promote our economical hydro to lure businesses to locate here. Now a thing of the past.

I would also thank Selinger and his pals for mortgaging the future of my children and grandchildren through their overspending.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 04/15/2017
Doer shares the blame
By: KENNETH M. ADAM, Winnipeg
Re: New NDP leader will need the patience of Doer (April 11)

Friday’s editorial used the wrong preposition in its headline. It ought to have read: "patience
with Doer." Never did I think I would be defending former premier Greg Selinger after his disastrous eight years of rule. However, it was Gary Doer who captained the ship named Manitoba towards the bottom; Selinger was merely unable to correct course.

Selinger’s biggest error as an economist was having no idea what another $20 billion of debt would look like, even with low interest rates. Unfortunately, unlike sunken gold lying on the bottom of the ocean, there is no hope of recovery of the $20 billion of Manitoban taxpayers’ money. Oh, well, it’s nothing double-digit hydro rate increases can’t fix!

Manitoba’s former poster-boy premier, Doer, must be held accountable to Manitobans and in Manitoba’s history. Doer might have had a lot of patience, but not a great deal of common sense.

Nor did his patience during his 11-year apprenticeship appear to teach him much about governing, especially keeping his hands off Crown corporations. To force Bipole III routing from the east side and then to build a highway in its place through important woodland caribou range (even more so, Doer’s ill-conceived legacy project of a possible World Heritage Site designation) did not make any sense. While caribou adjust to pipelines and other transmission lines after construction, highways kill them in two ways: collisions, but more importantly by giving access to hunters.

However, for your editorial to put the blame of the NDP’s transgressions solely on Selinger, while again attempting to praise Doer, is extremely unfair. It is important for even the ugliest parts of Manitoba history to be recorded factually.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 03/09/2017
Big dam costs
By: PHILIP BLAIN, Winnipeg
Re: New estimate pegs Keeyask cost at $2.2 billion higher (March 7)

With news of yet another price increase of $2.2 billion and years more delay for the Keeyask dam, one might well ask, "When, if ever, will Manitoba Hydro finally stop bleeding billions of dollars in cost overruns?"

Our premier has played Pontius Pilate with Hydro by just handing its huge financial woes over to the new board to deal with. Brian Pallister himself flatly reneged on his pre-election promises to halt Hydro capital spending and to conduct a government review of this ailing (and largest) Crown corporation. The Boston Consulting report, commissioned by the board, for the most part just rubber-stamped plans so Hydro spending could continue unabated. This is what Hydro has done with a vengeance, as illustrated by the latest eye-watering cost increases for Keeyask.

With ongoing complacency and inaction by the Progressive Conservative government and the Hydro board, all citizens of Manitoba will soon be suffering, not only with the prospect of double increases in power bills, but also with many jobs disappearing because of new financial hardships of employers. These financial hardships — likely to hit, for example, more than 40,000 small businesses in Manitoba — will come about from rising interest rates and an almost inevitable further downgrade of the province’s credit rating. As S&P Global stated last summer, after their last downgrade, "Manitoba Hydro is no longer being considered self-supporting, thereby placing the province at risk for further credit rating downgrades." The latest blowout of Keeyask costs will certainly foster and encourage the next major downgrade, which is due this summer.

With apparent ongoing lack of resolve to help turn around Hydro — especially at the place where the buck stops with government — perhaps the people of this province should initiate their own independent citizens enquiry to shed some new light on how best to keep our lights on?

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 01/10/2017
West side story
When I first heard rumours the Bipole III west side route would continue, as if we hadn’t changed governments, I was in disbelief. The Progressive Conservative party had been as opposed to this as the rest of us. They were going to stop this and return it to the original route, on the east side of the province, where there are very few homes and farms affected; where the enormous towers would be mostly hidden by the forests; where the wildlife in the area could graze and live a few miles away. The PC government cared about Manitobans and would keep their word, or so I thought.

I actually like to believe people mean what they say. You can imagine my shock when I found out the rumours were true. "The project is too far along to change it" is not an acceptable answer. You cannot continue with a wrong, it has to be made right, or you are as guilty as the ones who started the wrong in the first place. It has been established that Bipole III is not even needed at this time, or in the near future, so the answer is simple: the project has to be stopped. Problem solved.

Yes, I do have a personal interest in this. This Bipole line, the 45-metre tall towers with massive voltages travelling through its thick wires, would be built beside my home. My home is being threatened. It doesn’t take a genius to know this line is hazardous to one’s health. The stray voltage is strong enough to light up a lightbulb on the ground. You’ll get an electric shock by touching a metal gate a few miles away. People and cattle will be constantly exposed to this stray voltage. The lines are noisy and ugly, and the treatment of the farmers affected has been appalling.

If you think, "I’m glad I don’t have to live near this Bipole line," consider your neighbours who will be forced to do so. Think of their livestock and pets and how it will affect these animals to live under constant stray voltage exposure. Be assured they will be negatively affected. Studies have shown milk production will dwindle, that should go over well with dairy farmers. Modern tractors operate with GPS, and guess what? GPS doesn’t work properly near these lines. Forget spraying fields by plane, as it is illegal to fly under the Bipole lines. Think of the geese and many other birds that travel through our area in spring and fall, this being part of the Mississippi flyway. We have thousands of geese around our place each year. The thought of them flying into the towers or wires sickens me.

If these things don’t bother you, know that the horrendous price tag of many billions will come to haunt you through multiple hydro bill increases. It is simply a lose-lose situation for our province. This project has gone too far already. We don’t need it and we certainly don’t want it. We need to speak up and speak out to stop this.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 12/13/2016
People, not province, good with debt
By: KENNETH M. ADAM, Winnipeg
Re: Province still best in debt loads (Dec. 8)

Before Manitobans head out to catch up to other Canadians in the amount of debt we carry individually, we would be wise to remember that the former NDP government has borrowed more than we can already afford. It is individual Manitobans, not the province, that have the lowest debt loads.

When the approximately 806,000 Manitoba taxpayers add in the additional more-than-$31,000-per-capita debt outstanding from the NDP’s meddling with Manitoba Hydro, they owe about $49,355 (excluding mortgages) each. We have nothing really to celebrate here in Manitoba, except that Mr. Pallister clearly recognizes Manitoba is potentially in real trouble.

The problem with the province carrying such an enormous debt load is the risk of increasing interest rates. All Manitobans, not just taxpayers with large mortgages and debt, should keep low interest rates in their prayers.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 11/10/2016
NDP to blame for Hydro’s woes
By: RANDY BOLDT, Winnipeg
There has been much discussion in the Manitoba legislature about whether the NDP left Manitoba Hydro bankrupt or not. The minister responsible says it is bankrupt, while the premier says it is not.

Let’s look at the definition of bankruptcy by the Canadian Superintendent of Bankruptcy, which is: "the legal status of a person/company who is unable to pay his or her debt."

We also know that Moody’s has stated that they can no longer look at Hydro "as a stand-alone entity" — meaning they can no longer consider Hydro as able to pay its debt without the support of government.

By any standard, a firm in Hydro’s dire financial position in the private sector would certainly be classified as bankrupt and would have to seek creditor protection and relief of its debt (much like a Donald Trump casino).

So, on behalf of the people of Manitoba — I would like to thank the NDP for leaving Hydro effectively bankrupt, if not legally so.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 11/04/2016
Hydro developments not low-cost
Re: Report brings alarmist rhetoric from Hydro chairman (Nov. 2)

John Loxley’s recent commentary would have been powerful had it been objective. Loxley described recent comments by Manitoba Hydro’s new board chairman as both excessively alarmist and "politically motivated." The same descriptor, however, applies to Loxley’s own analysis.

Clearly stated in his own online CV is that Loxley served from October 2009 to March 2010 in the highly political role of transition team manager for premier Greg Selinger. Clearly there is a political agenda at work here. Economically, Loxley’s commentary would make sense as long as large-scale hydroelectric developments continued to always represent a low-cost means to produce electricity, both for domestic use and for export markets.

Except, as Manitoba Hydro has been painfully discovering, hydroelectric developments are not low-cost, but instead expensive. Importantly, there may be a simple explanation as to how this changed. Hydroelectric projects are long-term and renewable in character, but their construction involves significant fossil-fuel inputs, e.g. for steel, concrete and earth-moving. These are manifest in the cost.

From 2000 to 2008, fossil fuel prices rose steadily, more than doubling. This was also roughly the same timeframe as the Wuskwatim project. Estimated costs for Wuskwatim rose steadily too, in the end roughly twice the original estimate. In the process, Wuskwatim went from what seemed a stellar marquee project to a money-loser.

There have also been significant changes in export markets. Depressed electricity prices to the south are only partly due to the sluggish U.S. economy. Significant, low-cost alternatives have come online, especially in the past 10 years. The three states to the south of Manitoba, alone, now feature more than 5,700 MW of installed wind-power capacity, which is more than Manitoba Hydro’s overall total. Loxley appears stuck in the past. The world has changed, and moving forward today requires new and innovative ways of thinking.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 10/28/2016
Hydro, Xcel’s relationship
By: SCOTT POWELL, Manager of public affairs, Manitoba Hydro
Re: Manitoba Hydro needs to ignore the past and become an innovator (Oct. 26)

Will Braun is incorrect in his assumption that Xcel Energy has written Manitoba Hydro off as a supplier of renewable hydroelectricity.

Xcel Energy and Manitoba Hydro have a long-standing relationship dating back to the 1970s, and both utilities expect to continue that relationship into the future. As is the case with all of our wholesale export customers, Manitoba Hydro is in continuous discussions with them on their long-term needs and our ability to supply them with electricity once our existing contracts expire in 2025.

With regard to Xcel Energy not identifying Manitoba Hydro as a resource option in their future plans, this is a normal planning assumption for all utilities when contracts come to an end. To do otherwise would assume that an extension would align with the supplier’s intentions and current capabilities, and could be unfair to other potential energy suppliers.

The wholesale export market is highly competitive, but Manitoba’s surplus low-carbon emitting electricity is in high demand in both Canada and the United States. Manitoba Hydro will continue to offer Xcel Energy and other potential utility customers renewable hydroelectric energy options that offer benefits to both our customers and the environment.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/28/2016
It can happen here
By: KENNETH M. ADAM, Winnipeg
Re: The end of political civility (Sept. 28)

Your editorial rails on Trump about his "poor me" routine and states "he’s suckered an entire segment of the American population."
It is postulated, "It’s easy to watch the presidential election from the cheap seats, eating Skittles and being more than smug that this couldn’t happen in Canada."

However, assuming Manitoba is still part of Canada, all of this has already happened in Canada. Where have you been the last 10 years of NDP rule? Manitoba voters have been "suckered" by Gary Doer and Greg Selinger into an impossible debt load, largely through bullying Manitoba Hydro.

Data from the last election and the slant of many
Free Press editorials and articles (particularly the one a couple of weeks back heaping praise on Doer) and all the negative ones about Pallister indicates one out of three Manitobans and the Free Press do not yet understand how badly we’ve been "suckered," or, if you like, "trumped" or "doered-in."

There are no "cheap seats" anymore in Manitoba because it will take decades to dig ourselves out of the debt built up starting with Doer’s bad decisions with respect to the placement of Bipole III and the building of large dams before they are needed.

Our debt is much more than reported because building facilities before they are needed keeps employment numbers high at the expense of employment opportunities for our children and grandchildren in the future. In other words, we have "borrowed" jobs from future generations of Manitobans who will be faced with massive debt and fewer jobs.

With respect to Trump’s "poor me" routine, as you suggest, it is fictional. Unfortunately for Manitobans, our debt is real. There is certainly no reason for Manitobans to feel smug about our financial future, nor any immunity to being snookered by politicians.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/28/2016
Halt in construction needed
By: ALLAN WALKER, Winnipeg
Mr. Pallister, please suspend construction of Keeyask and Bipole III.

These projects are not "too far along" to suspend. The Limestone Generating Station construction began in 1976 with a cofferdam completed in 1978. Construction was resumed seven years later (after it had been suspended for a "slowing of demand.")

Sound familiar? The U.S. economic meltdown of 2009 and the prevalence of natural gas fracking, wind and solar power have rendered our power all but unwanted in the U.S. Thus, the Wuskwatim station, opened in 2012, operates at a loss, selling power to the U.S. at less than what Manitobans pay.

So why build the Keeyask Generating station? The PUB has already ordered construction on the Conawapa station to cease and desist because there is no use for the power it would generate. But the NDP forged ahead with Keeyask for political and ideological reasons.

Bipole III, ostensibly designed to carry all that extra power (that we don’t need, for non-existent export markets) is now claimed to provide Manitobans with energy security. A noble idea, but if that was the case, I’m surprised Hydro didn’t opt for the line to be installed on the bottom of Lake Winnipeg, as proposed by John Ryan in the
Free Press. Surely that would have provided ultimate protection for the line. Instead, Hydro was ordered by the NDP to construct a line down the west side of the province instead of the east side. This decision was based solely to improve chances of being granted World Heritage Site status for the east-side boreal forest. This decision will result in the loss of obscene amounts of power through line loss and cost twice as much to build.

Most of the money spent on these projects has been for consultation, securing rights of way, design, surveying and engineering. If the future work is postponed, the already completed work will become useful if and when these projects are ever viable.

Until then, Mr. Pallister, you could become as revered for stopping construction as former Progressive Conservative premier Duff Roblin was for constructing.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/19/2016
Government’s role with Hydro
By: MIKE VELIE, Business Manager, IBEW Local 2034, Winnipeg
Re: Gov’t proposes new bill to improve oversight of Crown corporations (Aug. 15)

The new government has signalled its desire to pursue a "hands off" approach with Crown corporations, preferring to let them run their own affairs. We understand and applaud the government’s goal of not interfering with the corporation’s operations. Indeed, it was precisely this kind of interference that forced the current routing of Bipole III, and needlessly imposed additional billions of dollars of tax burden on Manitobans.

However, we do not believe that an absolute "hands off" attitude is appropriate either, and recent comments cause us great concern.

Manitoba Hydro has vast expertise in technical areas related to power generation, transmission and distribution. It is in those technical areas that government should rightly distance itself.

However, this Crown corporation is more than just an amalgamation of technical skills and expertise. It is an entity designed to take a resource that belongs to all Manitobans, and to manage it in a way that serves the best interests and welfare of all citizens. This goes beyond the purely technical, and touches much larger issues such as fairness, equity, and social justice.

These in turn impact the quality of life of Manitobans and the economic prosperity of our province. And while governments do well to let technical experts make decisions that rely on their particular skills, this government must not ignore its responsibility towards the broader interests of all Manitobans.

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 06/13/2016
Re-examine Bipole III
Re: Pallister raises possibility of costly Bipole III move (June 9).

The idea of moving the current construction in western Manitoba of the power transmission line to the east side of Lake Winnipeg continues to become another saga in reforming Manitoba Hydro.

Our hydro is a key component of the provincial economy, it affects the everyday life of every Manitoban. The article talks about the expense of moving the construction project to the east side of our province, and changing the course could involve delays.

However, the change from one side of the lake to the other brings a much shorter and cheaper route Hydro initially favoured. On the east side of our province it is more environmentally sound, it would not waste renewable energy that would be lost in constructing the hydro lines over the longer western route. That is one of many dilemmas about this plan. The extra cost will probably be absorbed by our provincial government and most likely not by Manitoba Hydro.

I think it is time to re-examine this project, make a firm commitment before it spins off into something Manitobans cannot physically control, and from a monetary perspective, keep the costs from skyrocketing. Manitoba Hydro can reform our province and still be the major employer, but we need a more defined mandate for this Crown corporation.

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 03/23/2016
Hydro sets poor example
In Kristin Annable’s article (Hydro taking heat over large contract, March 2) she quotes Manitoba spokesman Bruce Owen’s justification for an untendered $85-million contract as "the best people were in place so we’d be getting the best bang for our buck." How could this be concluded without a request for proposals? Brian Pallister is correct "that government needs to set a proper tone at the top." Pallister is not alone in questioning Manitoba Hydro and the NDP’s accountability.

Former premier Ed Schreyer and Will Tishinski, a former vice-president of Manitoba Hydro, have joined critics of this unchecked spending spree. Both men, now in their 80s, are vocal critics of the current energy strategy. Both command our attention because their own careers shaped Hydro’s growth strategy.

Schreyer was quoted in the Free Press last year, saying: "We can’t recklessly start multibillion-dollar projects that have hopeless revenue-expense ratios and hope this will somehow turn out for the best." Tishinski, during a recent luncheon address to Winnipeggers, provided a brilliant historical synopsis of the escalating costs of Manitoba Hydro’s expansion.

The Carillon Posted: 03/03/2016
Hydro practices careless
Most people in the area will be aware of the standoff south of Landmark last weekend where a group of landowners took on Manitoba Hydro and its contractor along the right-of-way for the Bipole III transmission line.  Hydro has pulled all stops in an attempt to advance the line as far as it can before the spring election so that it will be difficult for a new government to halt the project while an independent and wholesome project review is undertaken.  As a result, the project is proceeding under adverse and less than cost-effective construction conditions.
The farmers were supported by a cooperative media and even developed a good working relationship with the RCMP who were there to ensure that the protest was carried out peacefully and safely. It has been very disappointing; however, that some local businesses engaged by Hydro, including a survey company in earlier days, and a local concrete company as well as towing company chose to accept work on a project that they must know will compromise the livelihoods and the lifestyle of the impacted farmers.  These are farmers who have supported and helped build these same local businesses over many years. They may not be as willing in the future to engage their services.
Perhaps these businesses do not realize that the careless practices being employed by Hydro run the risk of spreading club root and PED and other crop and animal diseases that have the potential to ruin the agricultural economy in this area. Perhaps it’s time these businesses start supporting their own and also stand up to the bullies who continue to put our local farms and farmers at risk.

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 02/23/2016
Sorry, not good enough
Regarding Premier Greg Selinger’s open letter to Manitobans, I hope voters will look back further than just the last year when reviewing his government’s track record.

We all know that in 2013 he unilaterally rammed through a PST increase to eight per cent without any regard to "due process." Is that what he is apologizing for?

Or is it the "waiver of notice" Order in Council he issued in 2014 that cleared the way for Manitoba Hydro to expropriate more than 200 landowners in the path of the Bipole III route with absolutely no regard for due process and property rights?

For the past 26 months, we have been pressing the government for an opportunity to be able to bargain collectively with Manitoba Hydro. Yet, still, it is refusing to extend the very right to us that your government so cherishes.

Selinger says he is committed to moving Manitoba forward because everyone matters. April 19 is less than two months away. It is not too late to show us that we matter, too.
Re: Jurgen Kohler's question as to whether Selinger's apology to Manitobans includes a mea culpa for his November 2014 action authorizing, without due process, Hydro to expropriate farmland so that the Bipole III transmission line could be punched through the Red River Valley,  that is only part of the story.

Right today, in Hydro's rush to advance the project as far as it can before the election, Hydro's  contractor is out in the fields taking absolutely no precautions to avoid spreading crop diseases from field to field.  A new plant-and-soil-borne disease called Club Root is slowly working its way eastward across the Canadian Prairies.  It was first found in  Manitoba about three years ago. Club Root has the potential to infect Manitoba soils  and eventually to eliminate our most important crop as a cropping option.

The spread of the disease can be controlled by means of a biosecurity protocol that requires cleaning soil and plant material that sticks to tires, tracks, drill bits, blades and undercarriage of equipment as it moves from field to field.  Hydro's contractor is taking absolutely no such precautions, instead, under the direction of Hydro, calling the RCMP to have farmers who express concern about this risky practice evicted off their own land.

On top of this, Hydro lied to the Committee on Crown Corporations in the Legislature last fall when it assured the Committee the necessary precautions were being taken.


Regarding Jurgen Kohler's comment on Bipole III: The days have passed when an electric transmission line can be rammed across property without the landowner having a say. The Manitoba Hydro Act allows the government to be a dictator to bring in the RCMP if the land owner attempts to resist Manitoba Hydro's incursion on their land.

As a result, Bipole III has absolutely no Social license, it is ridiculously routed, it is questionable whether it is needed at all since no detailed reliability study was tabled to prove its need, alternatives to Bipole III were falsely evaluated when its cost was estimated at $B3.3 and now its cost is climbing past $B4.77 far exceeding costs of alternatives. 

The Manitoba Hydro Act must be updated by the new government to allow the landowners, First Nations, impacted communities and environmental interests to determine where NECESSARY transmission lines must go with Social License - not by the government through Manitoba Hydro dictating the route despite the useless community "consultations".


Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 01/12/2016
Rethink Hydro’s capital plan
By: PHILIP BLAIN, Winnipeg
In the run-up to the April election, hopefully political parties will face up to the critical state of affairs arising from the corporate behaviour of Manitoba Hydro.

Recent reports
Ratepayers on the hook for Hydro (Brady Yauch, Dec. 23) and Hydro's outlook still unsettled (Will Braun, Jan. 6) paint a bleak picture of out-of-control capital spending and escalating costs.

A new provincial government should apply an immediate financial tourniquet to stem the excess bleeding of capital spending. Having spent $2 billion on the much-opposed Bipole III transmission project does not justify carrying on to completion this $4.6-billion project. A further look at the viability of Hydro's capital projects, estimated at $26 billion over the next 20 years, surely would reveal other substantial savings.

At a minimum, shouldn't some urgent inquiry or corporate review process be initiated?

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 12/26/2015
Hydro hangover
Re: Ratepayers on the hook for Hydro (Dec. 23). Manitoba Hydro is on a horrid downward trajectory, failed badly by its political overseers. As bad as it appears, the bigger problem is the effect current and future technology will have on power generation by potential Hydro clients.

Meanwhile, a province struggling under the weight of its current debt spends foolishly on pipe dreams.

Brian Pallister and Rana Bokhari need to step up and commit to suspending this outrageous spending until such time as we study the current long-term plans and costs, and until we can afford to develop capacity beyond the needs of Manitobans.

-- anonymity_personified
Hydro projects costing billions is one of the driving forces behind Greg Selinger's booming economy. If you dump a couple of billion-dollar projects into a small economy such as Manitoba's, it has a positive effect on numbers that governments love to see.

These projects will come home to haunt us in the future; hopefully some of them can be stopped after April.

-- mrpar
Manitoba Hydro has lost sight of its original mandate -- to provide economically priced energy to Manitobans. It did so in part by selling excess power at premiums to the U.S. and other markets.

Its focus now is on growing as a utility -- empire-building -- and using domestic consumers to fund that growth.

Another issue: in addition to ignoring market conditions, Hydro ignores the long repay over the long term on the type of assets it builds.
If it groups a number of builds together, as it is proposing, it has to go deep into debt.

The Public Utilities Board needs to shut these guys down for a while, and the provincial government needs to call in experts to review efficiency and capital decisions.

-- southonesixty
I noticed a number of Manitoba Hydro commercials running during Tuesday's Jets game on TSN3. Why would a Crown utility with a legislated monopoly purchase advertising blocks? The money comes from the ratepayers, who have little option for purchasing energy.

Where's the benefit to ratepayers with this expenditure?

-- Moore
"The main beneficiary of this spending will be ratepayers in the United States, who will have access to ample amounts of below-cost power."

I thought Hydro was supposed to do that for Manitobans. Instead, we appear to be financing our government's largesse towards others.

Costs are out of control with prospective revenues shrinking. Time to rein in this out-of-control venture.

I don't know about everybody else, but I can't afford much more of this.

-- JustWondering

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 12/26/2015
Hydro’s costly commitment
By: DAVE ENNIS, Winnipeg
The NDP is fond of putting up "Steady Growth, Good Jobs" signs; we know from the Dec. 23 articles Sinking deeper into deficit and Ratepayers on the hook for Hydro that the "steady growth" they're responsible for is in the deficit and the debt.

Are there going to be articles telling us about where the private-sector "good jobs" needed to offset the deficit and debt will be coming from?

[Could it be that the article ‘Smartphones dumbing down people’s ability to make plans, on the same page as the ‘Ratepayer’ item, points to an underlying malaise and also causes the public to be complacent?]

Winnipeg Free Pree Posted: 11/12/2015
Tough talk on Hydro
By: AL MYSKA, Winnipeg
Can we talk about two of the largest expenditures ever planned in Manitoba -- the $4.6-billion Bipole III transmission line and $6.5-billion Keyask generating station (Can we talk about Manitoba Hydro?, Editorial, Nov. 3)?

Out-of-province power sales declined to $338 million last year from $828 million in 2005. Manitobans will pay dearly through doubling or tripling of hydro bills in the next 20 years.

Brandon Sun Posted: 11/09/2015
Hydro not the asset is used to be

Manitoba Hydro may never be privatized, but if the day comes when there is no choice but to do so, we can thank Premier Selinger for all his disastrous decisions on the Hydro file. Once an undisputed provincial asset, Hydro is far from it today. People such as Ed Schreyer know this, and have spoken up.

Winnipeg Sun Posted: 10/22/2015
Schreyer doesn’t mince words on Hydro
(Appeared as “Schreyer, tall in the saddle!” in print version)

GRAHAM LANE, Manitoba Forward
Before a full room at a Fort Garry Rotary Club luncheon in September, a man who knows what he is talking about when Manitoba Hydro is concerned, severely critiqued the current NDP's Hydro expansion.

Meanwhile Hydro and its sole shareholder, the provincial government, continue to refuse to even acknowledge the risks being taken for Manitoba's consumers and economy.

Instead of facing up to the damage they are doing and reassessing the expansion, Selinger's crew is spending as much as is possible on its plan ahead of the upcoming provincial election. Refusing to respond to the criticisms of the expansion by truly opening up the books, contracts and commitments, the NDP now attempts to justify its actions as being necessary to save the planet.

Their latest ploy to fool the electorate into believing they "do good" is promising an environmental bill of rights and creating yet another new expensive environmental agency to monitor and control even more aspects of our lives.

With grievous construction over-runs, more bad news to come, and export prices in the tank, American utilities will gleefully buy our power at discounted prices subsidized by Manitobans. When a Crown corporation gives their president a massive raise and he still leaves, what's left to say?

Fortunately, former NDP Premier and Governor General Ed Schreyer has much to say.

Courageously and speaking plainly, he has broken away from his NDP colleagues to openly share his concerns about the massive misadventure expansion of Hydro's infrastructure. Past premiers of parties currently in power tend to keep their own counsel, so not to damage their successors.

Schreyer has tended to do that, with this one significant exception. Like former UK PM Margaret Thatcher, when the issue is of paramount importance he is his own man; his speaking out is commendable and in the public interest.

His verdict on the Hydro expansion was first publicly known when he joined former PC Premier Gary Filmon in expressing opposition in full page newspaper ads. He followed up by speaking at a Frontier Centre luncheon, where he called for a re-think of the expansion plan that he rightly considers foolhardy. A year later, his mind remains firm, firmly opposed to a risky and wasteful expansion.

At the recent Rotary luncheon (and in a newspaper article that followed), he again repeated his negative verdict on the NDP's colossal gamble using taxpayer-ratepayer money. Asked if he was still premier would he have agreed to the expansion, he paused for but a second or two and then said a resounding "no, not in these conditions."

Schreyer points out that when Hydro, with then his government's support, built dams on the Nelson River and planned for Limestone, the cost per unit of new generated power was but a mere fraction of what was spent on Wuskwatim and would be spent on Keeyask, Conawapa and Bipole III. Then, excess power could be sold to the Americans at a profit. Not now.

The Hydro expansion of Schreyer's day was smart, and led to a decade of frozen consumer rates. No such luck with this expansion.

Selinger should not hide behind "save the planet" platitudes and address the concerns expressed by the first NDP Premier. Spending unnecessary billions is not sustainable.

Roblin Review Posted: 10/20/2015
PC plan respects Hydro’s real owners

RALPH EICHLER, MLA Lakeside and PC Critic for Manitoba Hydro
Dear Editor,

Hydro minister Eric Robinson’s recent letter to Manitoba editors, which appeared in the Sept. 22 issue of the Roblin Review, shows how desperate the NDP is to deflect and distract from its sad record of Hydro mismanagement.

The PC plan respects the real owners of Hydro, the people of Manitoba. Robinson claims Hydro continuously works to keep costs and rates low. Unfortunately the reality is quite different and Manitobans are bearing the brunt.

Hydro rates have increased almost 30 per cent since Greg Selinger became premier in 2009. Rates have risen at more than double the rate of inflation for some time and, even more disturbing, Hydro is projecting four per cent increases every year for two decades. That means Manitobans can expect their Hydro bills to at least double in that time span.

Selinger’s NDP further touts the value of export sales, but what they don’t tell you is export sales are on the decline. In fact, export sales in 2008 were more than $225 million higher than last year. In spite of all this, the NDP is pushing ahead with its plan to sell subsidized power to Americans, all the while saddling Manitobans with rate increases to pay for it.

I think it’s worth reminding the NDP the purpose of Manitoba Hydro is: “To provide for the continuance of a supply of power adequate to the needs of the province, and to engage in and to promote economy and efficiency in the development, generation, transmission, distribution, supply and end–use of power.” (The Manitoba Hydro Act).

I would humbly suggest to Premier Selinger and Minister Eric Robinson that the NDP’s plan, that will see your rates more than double, does not promote economy or efficiency in the supply of power to your home. Manitobans have had enough of the same NDP broken promises. A change for the better is coming.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 10/17/2015
Heed Schreyer’s Hydro creed

In his Oct. 14 article Time for a reality check on Hydro's big-project meter, former premier and minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro Ed Schreyer expresses grave concerns about Hydro's current expansion plans.

Schreyer can speak with some authority on the subject, having overseen Manitoba Hydro during a time that resulted in the creation of major policy decisions that influenced significant hydro, gas-fired and coal-generating infrastructure.

In 2015, as Schreyer adroitly states, Manitoba faces the spectre of dramatically different economic, fiscal and competitive realities.

Many hydro experts, including Schreyer, have justifiably expressed concerns regarding the economic viability, timing and the escalating construction cost-to-sale-price ratios of Manitoba Hydro's multibillion-dollar expansion projects in the north. The ill-conceived construction of the increasingly cost-prohibitive Bipole III transmission line is also grounds for sounding the alarm bells.

When a former Manitoba premier -- and a man who has devoted his life to implementation of sustainable energy and resource-development strategies -- suggests it is prudent to do a reality check on the current government's massive expansion plans, it behooves us to listen because of the financial burden and risk that we are imposing on future generations of Manitobans.

Winnipeg Free Press Posted: 09/23/2015
No reason for current Bipole route

As president of the Bipole III Coalition, I wholeheartedly support the position outlined in Pallister says party would re-evaluate Bipole III if elected (Sep 16).

Our organization, composed of retired engineers and Hydro executives as well as landowners, has consistently condemned the Bipole III route selected.

The original reason for rerouting the line to the west side of the province near the Saskatchewan border no longer exists, as the application for the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation of the east-side boreal forest has been denied pending submission of further information. The rejection of the application had nothing to do with the presence of structures, but with a failure to prove aboriginal connectivity to the land.

The road now being built through the area, while sorely needed, will be far more disruptive to the natural environment than any transmission line.

This line will exist for more than 200 years -- we must get it right. It's foolish to proceed with building a line in a location condemned by all the experts and with a strong chance of being stopped.

The Roblin Review Posted: 09/15/2015
Offices closed, execs get more pay

RALPH EICHLER, MLA Lakeside and PC Critic for Manitoba Hydro
Dear Editor: 

The Manitoba NDP’s wasteful mismanagement has long threatened essential front-line services. The services cut under the NDP have now extended to Manitoba Hydro, which has closed 12 rural district offices to save an estimated $1 million.

The office closures, however, have come while Hydro’s senior executive salaries increased by $1.4 million between 2012 and 2014. And the executives’ raises of 20 to 30 per cent were revealed after the utility’s 3.95 per cent rate hike took effect in August.

This is the NDP’s style of management, which forces Manitobans to pay more and get less. Manitobans have so far experienced eight hydro rate increases totaling more than 25 per cent since Greg Selinger became premier. Under the NDP’s plan, Manitoba Hydro’s rates will more than double over the next two decades as a way to help cover the cost of the wasteful western route of the $4.6-billion BiPole III transmission line.

The waste and cuts to services will continue, as another 12 rural Hydro offices are slated for closure in 2017. Manitoba Hydro’s CEO promised these rural closures would “allow us to be more efficient, providing more consistent service at a reduced cost and ultimately passing those savings on to customers.” But Hydro customers will get no such promised savings, as the corporation’s NDP-appointed board continues to rubber-stamp pay hikes for its executives.

Hydro customers are tired of the NDP’s broken promises and want a change for the better. With the help of Manitobans, a change for the better is coming.

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