The Selinger government has made big changes to the board that ultimately decides how much Manitobans pay for electricity, natural gas and auto insurance.
Last month, the government quietly appointed five new members — including former Liberal MP Anita Neville — to the eight-person Public Utilities Board.
Gone are Bob Mayer, the former PUB vice-chairman, former Brandon MLA Len Evans, accountant and union employee Monica Girouard and Kathi Avery Kinew, a social worker and policy analyst.
Graham Lane, the PUB’s former chair, retired in March.
The departures leave the board with only one member with more than one year of PUB experience — small business owner Susan Proven, named in 2000. Chairman Régis Gosselin and board member Raymond Lafond were appointed to the board last summer.
"I am looking forward to this challenge," said Karen Botting, a retired school administrator who will take over as PUB vice-chair next week.
She and her colleagues will meet for the first time on Monday, when the new appointees participate in a workshop presented by Lane. The former PUB boss will bring them up to speed on some of the issues they will face in the months ahead. The PUB, for instance, is expected to decide in the coming days whether to grant Manitoba Hydro an interim rate increase of 2.5 per cent.
"Hopefully, we’ll be able to glean from his expertise," Botting said of Lane.
A government spokeswoman said in an email some of the departing board members wished to step down after several years of service, while others were named to other boards. She also noted that an independent review of appointments to government agencies and boards had recommended that the government implement limits for members who had served for longer terms.
Mayer, a Thompson lawyer and provincial NDP executive member, resigned from the PUB after the government named him to the board of the new Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corp., in May. He was part of a new slate of appointees to the PUB by the NDP not long after Gary Doer led the party to power in 1999.
Asked if it was a handicap for the PUB to have so many newcomers, Mayer scoffed: "Well, if it was, we must have really screwed up because we were virtually all rookies when I started."