Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hydro projects going ahead, Chomiak vows

Budget woes won't derail plan

  • Print

The Selinger government is not letting Manitoba Hydro's short-term fiscal woes derail plans to build a new power-transmission line or bring new hydro-generating stations on stream.

Dave Chomiak, the minister responsible for the Crown corporation, said Tuesday the NDP government is confident domestic and export demand for Manitoba power will be strong over the long term.

"Overall, we're optimistic. There's always short-term bumps," Chomiak said in an interview Tuesday.

"What we've found in the past... is that if you just looked at the day-to-day considerations you wouldn't build anything."

After years of generating huge profits, Manitoba Hydro is experiencing a cash crunch brought on by a warm Prairie winter and soft export markets.

For the fiscal year that ended March 31, Hydro estimates it earned a profit of $73 million, down $52 million from the $125 million it first projected. It received approval Saturday from the Public Utilities Board for a two per cent hike to all customers effective April 1.

In light of shifting energy-market conditions, some observers have called for a review of looming multibillion-dollar projects such as the BiPole III transmission line and the proposed Keeyask and Conawapa dams.

Chomiak, who also serves as innovation, energy and mines minister, acknowledged that the U.S. recession has depressed electricity prices, as has the increased potential for shale-gas extraction.

But fossil fuel prices are unlikely to remain low, he said, quoting the assessment of international experts. And placing a hold on hydro dam construction could jeopardize Hydro's export markets, not to mention Manitoba's own supplies, Chomiak said.

Nunavut, Saskatchewan and Ontario all need power, and Hydro has just signed significant power deals with Wisconsin and Minnesota, he noted. "We've never built a dam; we've never produced any power that has not been utilized," he said.

But Progressive Conservative Hydro critic Reg Helwer said it is irresponsible of Chomiak to continue to beat the drum for expensive construction projects given the current economic climate. "How much more do they expect that we'll be able to afford to pay?" Helwer asked of Hydro customers. "I would continue to urge the government to look at a capital projects review."

Although hydro consumers are being hit with a new rate hike, the provincial NDP remains committed to ensuring Manitobans enjoy the lowest combined price in Canada for electricity, home heating and car insurance, Chomiak said. The party made that a campaign promise during last fall's election.

Manitoba is believed to have the lowest combined rates in the country for these goods and services. Enabling legislation, expected to be tabled this spring, would require utilities to pay rebates to consumers if they failed to deliver on the government's promise.

Chomiak said Tuesday the province has hired the accounting firm Deloitte to measure consumer prices in every province. The government will pay to conduct such comparisons annually. Deloitte's initial report is expected this month.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2012 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Soca and Reggae Festival and Weekend Weather

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A goose heads for shade in the sunshine Friday afternoon at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg - Day 26– June 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google