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New Crown corporation proclaimed, but many questions unanswered

A hydro tower is seen in Toronto on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. The Manitoba government says a new Crown corporation aimed at promoting energy efficiency will be up and running later this year. (Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press files)</p>

A hydro tower is seen in Toronto on Wednesday, November 4, 2015. The Manitoba government says a new Crown corporation aimed at promoting energy efficiency will be up and running later this year. (Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press files)

Manitoba has a new Crown corporation. Efficiency Manitoba is tasked with reducing electricity consumption by at least 1.5 per cent, and natural gas by 0.75 per cent, annually.

Now all it needs are staff, a CEO and administrators, a board, a budget, a start date, programs, new ideas on how to meet its orders from Premier Brian Pallister, and a review by the Public Utilities Board.

"Efficiency Manitoba will be focused on performance," Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen told a news conference Wednesday. "Efficiency Manitoba will help reduce the impact of future (Manitoba Hydro) rate increases."

The new Crown corporation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the consumption of electrical energy for a total of at least 22.5 per cent over 15 years, and natural gas for a cumulative reduction of 11.15 per cent over 15 years.

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Manitoba has a new Crown corporation. Efficiency Manitoba is tasked with reducing electricity consumption by at least 1.5 per cent, and natural gas by 0.75 per cent, annually.

Now all it needs are staff, a CEO and administrators, a board, a budget, a start date, programs, new ideas on how to meet its orders from Premier Brian Pallister, and a review by the Public Utilities Board.

"Efficiency Manitoba will be focused on performance," Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen told a news conference Wednesday. "Efficiency Manitoba will help reduce the impact of future (Manitoba Hydro) rate increases."

The new Crown corporation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the consumption of electrical energy for a total of at least 22.5 per cent over 15 years, and natural gas for a cumulative reduction of 11.15 per cent over 15 years.

The minister said that, in 2014, "The PUB indicated we should have a stand-alone corporation, for demand side management," to replace Hydro's PowerSmart energy reduction programs. "Manitoba Hydro should be focused on the delivery of services. Maybe it's time for some fresh ideas."

Asked repeatedly for details, Cullen said, "Those sorts of details are to be worked out. There's lots of options on the table. We've established a framework.

"It's going to be a moving target," said the minister.

Cullen could not say how many people now working for PowerSmart would keep their jobs and move to Efficiency Manitoba, but said 40 per cent of PowerSmart's staff were in administration.

He could not say whether Efficiency Manitoba's head office will be created having already taken into account the 15 per cent cuts in management the Pallister government imposed on the other Crowns, such as Manitoba Hydro and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

Cullen told reporters that the annual reductions in consumption will be achieved over and above any increase in electrical consumption because of having more electric vehicles on the road, or having more homes converted from natural gas to electric heating.

In mid-afternoon, Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires tweeted that she had just attended an "excellent discussion about electrification of transportation in Manitoba. One of the options to reduce our #GHG emissions."

Meanwhile, at Cullen's morning news conference, "This isn't much of an announcement," said spectator Tom Thiessen, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association. "We thought a CEO would be announced today —- it wasn't.

"The PowerSmart programs have been very successful. (His members) have installed energy-efficient equipment in their buildings," said Thiessen.

He had expected to hear about new programs Wednesday, and BOMA's members want to know which PowerSmart programs will be retained, Thiessen said. "We didn't see the need for another Crown corporation. We certainly hope the province of Manitoba will be more forthcoming."

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont also didn't see need for a new Crown corporation.

"If the Pallister Government is really concerned about wasting energy, they wouldn’t be creating a new Crown corporation," Lamont said.

"Efficiency Manitoba will do something Hydro was already doing, at Hydro’s expense, and it has no business model to generate revenue. While it will achieve savings for homeowners, it appears it will only ever lose money," said the Liberal leader.

"The government could achieve all of the same goals at lower expense than a Crown corporation if government departments were to run it. The core problem is that the PCs are doing exactly what the NDP did with Hydro —- using it as a piggy bank to make the government’s own books look better," Lamont said.

NDP Crown services critic Tom Lindsey was similarly contemptuous: "This is a government that claims to be cutting red tape, but here they're creating another level of bureaucracy, with no idea of what it will cost to taxpayers. While they're cutting health care and community programming, and we're losing jobs in industries across the province, they should focus on what matter most to Manitobans, instead of creating more costly bureaucracy that members of their own party say is unnecessary."

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Nick Martin

Nick Martin
Education Reporter

Nick Martin is the bearded guy we keep hidden away at the back of the newsroom. He is now in his fourth decade working in daily newspapers.

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