The Pallister government’s energy-savings goals came under scrutiny Thursday, after it was revealed it had passed a regulation ordering no further money be allocated to a Centra Gas furnace replacement program beyond April 1, 2020.
The regulation, passed in August, also decrees Efficiency Manitoba, the new Crown corporation that will take over energy-savings programs from Manitoba Hydro next spring, cannot use an existing affordable-energy fund for electrical energy or natural gas conservation.
The NDP seized on the revelations to condemn the Progressive Conservative government for failing to address climate change.
"It’s a bad move, because this is going to mean a bigger carbon footprint for our province," NDP Leader Wab Kinew said of the axing of the furnace replacement program.
In question period, the New Democrats also accused the Tory government of continuing to interfere in the operations of Crown corporations and breaking its own rules in the process.
On Wednesday, the provincial cabinet passed another regulation, allowing Efficiency Manitoba to delay submitting a three-year plan on how it will achieve legislative targets for reducing electrical and natural gas use. The corporation had been required to submit its plan to the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba by Oct. 1. The regulatory change allowed it to submit it on Nov. 1.
Jeff Wharton, who was named Crown Services Minister last week, in addition to his responsibilities for municipal relations, said earlier this week he wanted time to study the file.
NDP Crown services critic Adrien Sala (St. James) noted under the legislation creating Efficiency Manitoba, the corporation is to submit its energy-efficiency plans to the PUB. And only after receiving the PUB’s recommendations on the plan does the minister become involved — either approving it as submitted or referring it back to the corporation for revision.
"The minister is interfering in this independent process for political reasons, and he’s breaking his own law in the process," Sala said Thursday in the legislature. "That’s wrong."
Speaking to reporters, Wharton refused to explain the government’s reasoning in ordering the end of the furnace replacement program. (The NDP has suggested it is simply a money-saving move.)
"When Efficiency Manitoba is up and launched in April 2020, (it) will work towards... looking at other programs that may be of benefit to GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction," he said.
As for accusations of political interference, Wharton said he held up Energy Manitoba’s submission to the PUB because he was still getting up to speed in a new portfolio.
"I think it’s appropriate for a new minister to have the opportunity to get familiar with all his or her files," he said. "Quite frankly, that’s exactly what we’re doing."
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.