Hydro Projects Need Close Look
The NDP Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro said recently that there would be a review done on upcoming capital projects planned by our largest Crown Corporation. We can only hope that the review is independent and thorough because Manitobans have a lot riding on it.
As it currently stands, Manitoba Hydro has more than $22 billion in proposed capital projects on its books. They include new hydro-electric generating stations and the Bi-Pole III transmission line. There is already a great deal of controversy surrounding some of the projects.
The new Bi-Pole line for example is being run down one of the longest routes imaginable which will add hundreds of millions of dollars to the final cost. Recently, we also learned the NDP government is planning another forced unionization scheme on the Bi-Pole III project whereby all workers involved will have to pay union dues, whether they are union workers or not. The last time that this was done by the NDP, when the floodway was expanded, it added an additional $60 million to the cost of the project, which came in so much over budget the plan to replace a number of bridges had to be scraped.
It is bad enough that the NDP has meddled with Hydro to the point that a bad routing decision on Bi-Pole III and forced unionization will cost Manitobans hundreds of millions of dollars more, it is particularly concerning when Hydro faces so many economic challenges.
While Hydro is supposed to be Manitoba’s oil, it is coming under difficult times. Recently it revealed that it now expects to make $4 billion LESS from export sales of electricity over the next 20 years than previously projected. This is the result of the slowdown of the United States economy which began in 2007 and the decrease in the price of natural gas as the result of new reserves. For any business, it is the worst scenario when costs are skyrocketing and revenues are dropping.
The result for Manitoba Hydro is that to make up the difference, they need to increase the rates paid by Manitoba customers for hydro. Manitoba Hydro has already applied for emergency rate increases and has indicated that the rates will be going up regularly for years to come for local customers. Far from being Manitoba’s oil, under the management of the NDP, Manitoba Hydro is impacting the pocket books of Manitobans.
All of these factors mean that a review of Hydro’s capital projects needs to be done. And it can’t be another quick internal review where the NDP reviews decisions it has already committed to. There needs to be an independent party that takes another look at the requirement for future projects and their cost. Hopefully this is a serious review, because for Manitoba’s future, it certainly is serious business.