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This article was published 23/1/2018 (924 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The provincial NDP proposed a seemingly simple solution Tuesday to reduce Manitoba Hydro's money problems: electrify cars, buses and homes through interest-free loans funded by carbon taxes.
Environment critic Rob Altemeyer told a news conference the opposition has submitted its proposal to the Public Utilities Board, which is in the process of conducting lengthy hearings into Hydro's request to increase its rates by 7.9 per cent annually for six years.
"This drastic rate increase in unfair," he declared.
Rather than an either/or choice between Hydro rates soaring or the Crown corporation going further into debt, Altemeyer proposed a third alternative.
Hydro charges more for domestic consumption than it does for exports, so generating more revenue for Hydro would reduce its need for high rate increases, he said.
The NDP would electrify all public transit vehicles, boost the use of electric personal and fleet vehicles, and convert homes from natural gas to electric heat with carbon taxes, which come into effect later this year.
"We can't make that transition overnight," Altemeyer said.
Altemeyer could not say how much money it would take to fund the conversions and purchase of new vehicles, nor could he speculate what kind of revenue or what level of rate increases could result from the changes.
The PUB will decide what rates are reasonable, said Altemeyer.
Avoiding 7.9 per cent annual rate increases is critical for the north, said NDP Crowns critic Tom Lindsey, the MLA for Flin Flon.
If Hydro's proposed rate increases are approved, jobs will be lost in the north, said Lindsey.
"It may very well shut down some of those industries completely. In the north, we don't have access to cheap natural gas," he said.
Altemeyer acknowledged the New Democrats had not made a similar proposal during their 17 years of majority governments.
"We didn't have the electric-vehicle option the way we do now," he said.
A government spokesperson said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on specific proposals that are being considered by the PUB.
"It should be noted, though, that the proposed rate increases are the direct result of NDP mismanagement and political interference with Manitoba Hydro. The NDP pushed Manitoba Hydro into unsustainable debt levels."
"Our Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, unveiled this fall, will reduce more emissions than the made-in-Ottawa carbon tax."
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