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This article was published 8/6/2015 (1824 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Opposition Progressive Conservatives have served notice that Manitoba Hydro’s future profitability — and its impact on ratepayers — is going to dominate the legislature in the coming weeks.
On Monday, PC Leader Brian Pallister peppered Premier Greg Selinger with questions on Hydro’s future profitability.
The questioning came after Manitoba Hydro delivered a gloomy outlook on its long-term profitability to the Public Utilities Board, where it is seeking a 3.95 per cent across-the-board hike in electricity rates.
In filing its rate application, Hydro predicted it will post healthy profits this year and in two subsequent years. But after that, the outlook becomes bleak due to a combination of soft projected export demand for electricity and an expensive plan by the utility to build new dams and transmission lines.
Hydro predicts six consecutive years of losses ranging, from $75 million to $192 million, between 2018-2019 and 2023-2024.
The Selinger government signalled that the impact of these future losses on the province’s books would be sizable when it announced in the April 30 budget that it was abandoning its usual accounting method when predicting the size of future deficits and surpluses. From now on, the government said, it will only look at core government spending and revenues when projecting surpluses or deficits several years into the future.
The government does not expect to balance its books, using core accounting, until 2018-2019. It has steadfastly refused to provide budget surplus and deficit projections based on ‘summary’ accounting, which is still officially the way government states its financial performance. Summary accounting takes in the performance of Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Public Insurance and dozens of other Crown entities.
Pallister said the losses projected for Manitoba Hydro beyond 2017 are "mind-boggling."
He said the Selinger government seems intent on hiding the impact of the losses because it fears Manitobans will question why Hydro is investing so much to produce electricity for export.
The government is already facing huge budgetary challenges arising from increased demand for health care and family services, Pallister said.
In the legislature Monday, he repeatedly asked Selinger for information on Hydro’s projected profitability this year and in coming years.
Selinger noted that the utility projects it will turn a profit in the next few years. He referred Pallister to Hydro’s rate application before the PUB for more information.
The Opposition Leader said he plans to hammer the government on the issue in the days and weeks ahead.
The government will introduce a motion today to have the legislature to sit until July 9. It also proposes two separate fall sittings.
The motion comes after the Tories caught NDP MLAs napping last Thursday, when Tory house leader Kelvin Goertzen sought leave for the House to sit straight through until the end of December. When no MLA objected, the House Speaker declared that the House had agreed to it.
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