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Manitobans can justly ask who to believe

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Regarding the editorial Credibility deficit balloons, it should be said there are other chickens of dubious credibility still to come home to roost because of inept guarding of the Hydro hen house.

Consider the following four glowing statements about Manitoba Hydro's financial health, all within the past 18 months.

"Manitoba Hydro is in its strongest financial position of its 57-year history." -- minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, Rosann Wowchuk, addressing the Manitoba Crown Corporations Committee in the legislature on May 30, 2011, as recorded in Hansard.

"This is our retained earnings, how they've grown since the year 2000. They've grown dramatically... and, as you can see, they grow pretty dramatically, as well, in the future." -- Hydro CEO Bob Brennan in a PowerPoint presentation to the Manitoba Crown Corporations Committee in the legislature on May 30, 2011, recorded in Hansard.

"The utility is in great shape." -- Hydro CEO Bob Brennan, as reported in the Free Press upon his retirement in August 2011.

"Manitoba Hydro has never been in stronger financial health as it is now." -- Vic Schroeder, chairman of the Hydro board, as the CBC reported the announcement of his retirement on Feb. 8, 2012.

Do these quotes sound like the financially troubled Hydro we are finding about today?

By contrast, here are quotes by the Manitoba Public Utilities Board and the Bipole III Coalition during the same period.

"The main question before this board is whether MH's 'game plan' will require higher domestic rates than MH projects. At this point, and with the information that MH has provided to the board, while the jury is still out, the board has serious concerns." -- The Public Utilities Board as stated in PUB Order 99/11 on July 29, 2011.

"The reality about Hydro is far different than the NDP would like Manitobans to believe." -- Dave Ennis, Bipole III Coalition director, as reported by the Dauphin Herald on Aug. 16, 2011.

This government and the former leadership of Manitoba Hydro consistently have misled the public on the true state of Hydro's finances. This can only happen for so long, after which the truth surfaces. Now we find that Manitobans are facing an approximately four per cent annual rate increase for the next 18 years. This is far more than the rate of inflation.

And we find the price tag on the next two dams has gone up again, this time by another $3 billion.

Considering the track record, what basis do Manitobans have to believe that such numbers are not also low-balled?

Hydro leadership needs to stop taking its cues from the NDP and to start using the intellect it has within its ranks.

Manitobans are justified in asking who they can believe.

Garland Laliberte is the engineering dean emeritus, University of Manitoba.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 17, 2012 A11

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