CONSERVATIVE Leader Brian Pallister has joined two former premiers and a pair of former Manitoba Hydro executives in demanding a full review of the Crown corporation's dam and transmission-line construction plans.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, he said the Selinger government appears hell-bent on seeing Hydro spend tens of billions of dollars to expand power production at a time when once-promising U.S. electricity markets are at risk of disappearing.
"This is the largest mega-proposal in the history of Manitoba," Pallister said of plans to build the $3.28-billion Bipole III transmission line and the proposed Keeyask ($6.2 billion) and Conawapa ($10.2 billion) power dams. Manitoba Hydro projects its capital project spending to total $34 billion during the next two decades.
"This is a massive undertaking. It's almost beyond comprehension how big this is," the Tory leader said.
Pallister said the Selinger government is stubbornly sticking to past analyses of U.S. energy demand to back its quest to build new power dams. This decision could come back to bite Manitoba ratepayers in the form of higher hydro bills, he said.
Besides a 3.5 per cent rate hike this year, Hydro has said it will seek increases of 3.95 per cent in each of the following 18 years from Manitoba consumers to support its construction plans.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation released an open letter to Premier Greg Selinger saying Hydro's $34-billion development plan is too risky and could result in a rate shock to customers.
The letter included statements of support from former premiers Ed Schreyer and Gary Filmon as well as former Hydro executives Len Bateman and Will Tishinski.
However, Stan Struthers, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, said Wednesday there are more risks in putting the brakes on hydro development than in proceeding with the corporation's expansion plans.