Statement by Manitoba Liberal Leader, Dougald Lamont, on the Resignation of the Manitoba Hydro Board
WINNIPEG – The resignation of all but one member of the Manitoba Hydro Board is a full-blown crisis and an indictment of the leadership and judgment of Premier Brian Pallister, says Manitoba Liberal Leader, Dougald Lamont.
“This goes beyond bad judgment on the part of the Premier, it is gross incompetence,” said Lamont. “The single most important issue in Manitoba is fixing Hydro’s finances because if we don’t, it will take us all down.”
In a statement, Hydro’s Chair, Sandy Riley, implied that Hydro’s board tried to get a meeting with Pallister for over a year, but he refused to meet with them, even to “resolve a number of critical issues related to the finances and governance of Manitoba Hydro, including matters related to Hydro’s efforts to further develop its relationship with Indigenous peoples.”
The government’s drain on Hydro’s finances has been so bad that is putting the Crown Corporation at risk of default within ten years, with $25-billion in debt, comparable to the debt of the province as a whole, said Lamont. In effect, the NDP and PCs have both been using water rentals, debt guarantee fees and capital taxes imposed on Hydro to hide their own debt on Hydro’s books.
“Pallister only cares about making his own bottom line look better for the next election, even if it means putting Hydro’s finances – and the financial health of the entire province at risk,” said Lamont. “We have had two credit downgrades already because Pallister puts creative accounting and his own political gain ahead of what’s best for Manitoba.”
In February, the Manitoba Liberals made a presentation of budget recommendations to Finance Minister Cameron Friesen. At the top of the list was that the provincial government should embrace “honest accounting” and end the long-running practice of PC and NDP governments of raiding Hydro by hundreds of millions a year.
Lamont emphasized that the Liberal plan would allow Hydro to build up capital, prevent a debt crisis, have lower rate increases, and still return to profitability.