Manitoba Liberals: No need for Hydro break-ups or sell-offs if the government returns some of the billions taken from Hydro by NDP and PCs alike
Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg, MB - Manitoba Liberals say the Wall Report on Manitoba Hydro is fatally flawed, has huge omissions, and its recommendations to break up Hydro and sell it off in pieces are totally unnecessary and wrongheaded.
The terms of reference of the report mean that it completely ignores any actions of the PCs in relation to Hydro, the PUB, political interference, and more.
Lamont said there is a relatively simple solution that could prevent any privatizations, sell-offs or cuts, while still keeping rates low. The solution is to have the Manitoba Government stop stealing hundreds of millions of dollars a year from Hydro, and reinvest instead - just as the Public Utilities Board (PUB) recommended on May 1, 2018.
The PUB recommended the Province "suspend the collection of approximately $900 million of government revenues from Bipole III over the next 13 years." When Lamont asked Hydro CEO Jay Grewal about the recommendation in a committee last summer, she had never heard of it.
The Wall report mentions the plundering of Hydro by PC and NDP governments alike, but only in passing about the fact that the Manitoba Government makes money while Hydro bears all the risks for projects gone wrong. PC and NDP governments have been taking hundreds of millions of dollars a year from Hydro in the form of water rentals, debt guarantees and capital taxes.
The "debt guarantee fee" means that the higher Hydro's debt, the more the province takes. The same is true of capital taxes . If Hydro builds a bigger dam or has cost overruns, the government takes more taxes.
Lamont said the dirty secret of the PCs and the NDP is that they have spent the last 30 years putting their spending on Hydro's credit card.
"Billions of dollars in Hydro debt has not gone into building dams, or Manitoba jobs, or transmission lines - it was used by the NDP and PCs to pay for pet projects and tax cuts," said Lamont. "If Manitobans, or even the Federal Government, are willing to invest in Hydro and take over just some of the billions in debt the PCs and NDP forced it to take on, we don't have to privatize, or cut jobs, or hike rates. This is a bad report."
The report also ignores a string of fiascos involving the oversight of Hydro under the PCs, as well as dismantling of oversight bodies designed to manage political interference. The Crown Services Board was a civilian board designed to act as a go-between between government and MPI, Hydro and MBLL. Pallister disbanded it.
In the 2020 budget, Pallister and the PCs overrode the PUB entirely and imposed a rate increase of 2.9% on all Manitobans, and has introduced a bill that will gut the PUB by cutting its budget and requiring less oversight.
Because the study only looks at NDP decisions, it leaves out everything that happened under the PCs since 2016 - including Brian Pallister's refusal to meet for months with the Board and its Chair, Sandy Riley, to address Hydro's financial crisis. Nine of ten board members resigned in protest, and Pallister then falsely claimed that Riley had an arrangement with the Manitoba Métis Federation.
"I suspect that Pallister refused to meet with Sandy Riley and the Hydro board because Riley wanted to save Hydro and keep it public, and Pallister wanted to do neither," said Lamont. "Pallister has once again spent a huge amount of public money on an out-of-province consultant with no skin in the game to tell him what he wants to hear."