Fellow Freep reporter Larry Kusch and I did a year-end sit-down with Premier Greg Selinger late last week.
One of the questions we asked had to do with the Public Utilities Board and its long-running fight with both Manitoba Public Insurance and Manitoba Hydro over the PUB having greater access to Crown finances.
With MPI, the PUB wants access to all areas of its operations including those that have nothing to do with Autopac.
With Hydro, the PUB wants to examine its confidential export contracts with places such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The PUB said it needs more information from the Crowns to get a better idea of their financial health in setting Autopac and Hydro rates.
Hydro and MPI have said that information is none of the PUB’s business. They say the PUB already has all the financial information it needs to come to a fair and proper decision over rates.
A recent Court of Appeal decision in the MPI matter suggested if the PUB wanted increased powers to get that information from MPI, it can ask its government masters to change the PUB Act.
PUB also took Hydro to court over access to the export contracts. A decision is expected soon.
MPI’s legal bill for this action is about $500,000. Hydro’s legal bill is more than $300,000.
I’ve asked the PUB what its legal bill is, but I haven’t got an answer yet.
Here’s what Selinger had to say on the issue in our year-ender:
"I actually think a lot of those matters can be resolved by a better attitude on the part of the Crowns and the regulator themselves to get together and sort things out. We’ve always said that the Crowns should fully cooperate with the regulator in providing information as long as the regulator doesn’t compromise their commercial interests. There’s been some court action on that and the court has pretty much said the same thing. They said this is what your authority is and that needs to be followed.
"We’re going to see some changes in personalities in some of our Crowns. The regulator himself (chair Graham Lane retires in 2012). We’re very close to appointing a new person. There is going to be a new CEO for Hydro (to replace the retiring Bob Brennan) in the new year.
"My view is that everybody will take a fresh view at these relationships and I’m very optimistic that they will both be able to do their jobs with less conflict."
Our full interview with Selinger will run over the holidays.