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Big guns come out against Bipole plan

Filmon, Schreyer call for Hydro review

Opponents of the Selinger government's plan to build a new transmission line down the west side of Lake Winnipeg are calling for a full review of Manitoba Hydro and its dam-buildings plans.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released an open letter to Premier Greg Selinger Monday that said Hydro's $34-billion development plan is too risky and could result in a rate shock to customers. The letter includes statements against the project from former premiers Ed Schreyer and Gary Filmon and is supported by former Hydro executives Len Bateman and Will Tishinski.

"What it's doing is costing Manitobans dearly into the future," Bateman said. "I think it's high time to reexamine it."

Bateman, Hydro's former CEO, and others called on the province to have a non-partisan, independent review of Hydro's entire scheme before allowing it to continue.

It's the most risky and costly plan this province has ever seen," the CTF's Prairie director Colin Craig added. "It's crucial to get it right.''

Besides a 3.5 per cent increase this year, Hydro has said it wants increases of 3.95 per cent in each of the remaining 18 years to help it build the estimated $3.28-billion Bipole III transmission line and the proposed Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations on the Nelson River.

"The Manitoba citizen that's paying a hydro bill in the future is going to be paying for this poor decision," Bateman said.

Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, said there won't be a review beyond what's already planned.

Struthers said without further hydro development, the province could see repeats of the mid-1970s when blackouts were more common.

"If we delay and leave Manitoba in a position where we run out of power, then the logical outcome of that is that we will have less investment in this province," Struthers said. "We have too much at stake in this province."

Bipole III Coalition spokesman Garland Laliberte, a former dean of engineering at the University of Manitoba, said construction of the new transmission line should be stopped pending a review.

"It would be better to stop a plan and give up the money that's been spent so far than to lose the money that we could lose with a $34-billion investment that we don't know how it will be paid for," he said.

Planning and consultations for Bipole III's western route over the past decade has cost about $200 million, about six per cent of the estimated cost of the new line.

Laliberte and others said an independent panel would look at the abundance of shale gas as a new cheaper alternative to burning coal in the United States, and whether it's reduced the need to build the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 A7

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