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Wind and the WRHA, in no particular order

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The province re-announced a wind farm re-announcement today. Besides the fact that the company building the wind farm is dying a slow and painful death in the pages of every Australian newspaper, there were a few interesting things about the announcement:

First, there was no news, really, just a snazzy billboard and lotsa guys in blue suits gathered in one room for photos. We already knew there was going to be a 300 megawatt farm near St. Joseph built by Babcock & Brown and BowArk. There’s still no power purchase deal in place, which would be real news. The province just wanted to stave of criticism that the project is slow-going.

Second, it was interesting that BowArk wasn’t at the press conference, considering the project was their brainchild and they worked with many of the farmers on the land leases and were kind of the go-to guys for the reeves. BowArk recently expressed frustration at the slow pace of negotiations with Hydro.

Third, I wonder how the other wind companies like Sequoia and Canadian Hydro Developers - among the proponents of the 83 projects that got beat out by Babcock & Brown - feel about the St. Joseph project. Sequoia, a Manitoba company, has gone south for most of its work.

A savvy source sent me a recent report on alternative energy written by Scotia Capital, all about which green companies might be good to invest in. The Calgary-based Canadian Hydro won kudos, but the report notes that more than 1,000 megawatts of wind on the company’s to-do list is in Manitoba.

"While the wind regime is strong in its Manitoba development regions, we don’t see the company commissioning a substantial amount of wind power capacity in the province over the next five years," reads the report. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

On another topic, there was an interesting and very heated exchange today in the Leg over the firing of Dr. Larry Reynolds, the former medical director of the WRHA and a professor in the University of Manitoba’s medical school. CBC Radio broke the story and suggested Reynolds was turfed because he criticized the WRHA.

The Tories accused the government of orchestrating his termination, and Tory Health Critic Myrna Driedger said she’s heard from lots of doctors who said they feared for their jobs if they went public with health care concerns. That elicited huge groans from the NDP, who said they never get involved in personnel issues.

"You’re just makin’ it up," Premier Gary Doer said to Driedger.

"I listen to the radio, too, but in addition I also do my homework," Health Minister Theresa Oswald piled on. "I don’t just make stuff up."

Driedger was right there with a zinger, though. She said Oswald can’t take credit for hiring new docs (which the province does pretty much once a month) and then duck responsibility for firing them.

I don’t really believe the minister sent word down from on high that Dr. Reynolds should be fired. But I find it completely plausible (for lack of any information or evidence to the contrary) that he was punted by the WRHA for being outspoken.

I’d venture to say the WRHA micromanages the flow of information more than any other government department around. PR people hover over interviews, ban reporters from calling docs and are generally needlessly adversarial. If that’s the vibe that filters out, imagine what it’s like on the inside.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.


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