Premier Greg Selinger said today if the Bipole III transmission line is stalled it will set Manitoba back in economic growth.
"We need to stop talking about it. We need to get on with the show," he said at a breakfast meeting of Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.
Selinger also said if Hugh McFadyen's Progressive Conservatives form the next government, and cancel the bipole's west side route, it will also damage Manitoba Hydro's reputation as a power exporter and put the province at risk of blackouts.
The Tories say they'll cancel the west side route in favour of a shorter and less expensive route down the east side of the province without hurting export plans.
Four years ago the NDP decided to build the new transmission line, to be the third bringing power south from northern dams, to protect the boreal forest on east side of Lake Winnipeg, and a bid to designate it as a United Nations world heritage site.
Manitoba Hydro is in early stages of building the Keeyask dam and has the larger Conawapa generating station on the drawing board.
The two dams are needed for Hydro to export more power to Minnesota and Wisconsin over the next 20 years, to earn Hydro $21 billion in anticipated revenue.
"It's very important we do it now," Selinger said. "Once you make the investment the returns last for decades."
He also said Hydro is also planning to expand wind farms, but can't lose its focus on building the two new dams. The province's newest dam, Wuskwatim near Thompson, is to come online in several months.
Selinger said after the speech Bipole III also has to proceed as planned to bring stability to the Manitoba or domestic market.
"It’s a $54-billion economy which is more than $4 billion dollars a month," he said. "If you did not have electricity in Manitoba because you don’t build the additional converter stations and additional transmission, that could stall the economy and stalling the economy could have very serious consequences for our economic prosperity. That’s why we need to build it now."
He added Hydro is looking at exporting more power to Saskatchewan and tapping into the Alberta market.
Progessive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen raised BiPole III as an election issue while campaigning in Dawson Trail constituency southeast of Winnipeg on Thursday.
Standing in a windswept field east of Landmark with local Conservative candidate Laurent Tetrault at his side, McFadyen repeated a party promise to put the brakes on a western route for the hydro transmission line, which he said may be "the worst public policy decision in Manitoba history."
Speaking to a small group of supporters, he said the line will have a negative impact on the area and be "a blight on the community."
Tetrault said the BiPole issue "has really exploded" in the area in the past few weeks as residents realize that the huge transmission towers will be a part of their lives.
Also Thursday, University of Alberta Professor David Schindler and 74 other scientists issued a letter today supporting the NDP’s decision to route Bipole III away from the east side boreal forest and down the west side of the province. Click here to read the letter.
-- with files from Larry Kusch