Time to hold Manitoba Hydro to account
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Manitoba Hydro lacks accountability to its customers, employees and Indigenous communities impacted by dam development. Manitobans are concerned about Hydro’s disregard for Indigenous rights, rate increases, secrecy with financial records and its labour practices.
In response to these concerns, the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition (MEJC) and Wa Ni Ska Tan Alliance of Hydro-Impacted Communities teamed up to create the Manitoba Hydro Accountability Board (HAB). HAB will help hold Manitoba Hydro accountable to the public.
Communities that are directly impacted by Hydro development rarely have influence over energy policy. Many people in Winnipeg and other southern communities are unaware of the challenges their northern neighbours face as a result of electricity production.
The HAB investigates concerns raised by members of impacted communities, assessing Hydro’s actions and informing southern Manitobans of harmful operations.
HAB members include elders and knowledge keepers, scientists, hydro-impacted community members, students, activists and northern youth. This team acts as a unified voice offering support and advice to ensure a responsible, sustainable and accountable Manitoba Hydro.
Members of the board were nominated and elected by the public. While MEJC and Wa Ni Ska Tan helped create the HAB, the board and its members operate as an independent entity and welcome further networking and partnership opportunities.
The current Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board does not provide sufficient oversight of Hydro. Their members are appointed by provincial politicians behind closed doors, rendering their decision-making process inaccessible.
Manitoba Hydro has free rein to use public funds for projects that could be environmentally destructive, financially questionable and socially disastrous. HAB believes Manitoba Hydro should consult with communities more, and try harder to keep from displacing people unnecessarily.
Northern and rural communities experience disproportionate harm from Manitoba Hydro developments, while the majority of the energy produced goes to meet the demand of southern urban communities.
Energy is also sold for profit to out-of-province customers, including ones in the United States. Meanwhile, northern communities are left with high electricity costs; many also continue to experience environmental degradation, health risks and economic loss caused by Hydro developments.
Flooding is one disastrous outcome of dams and clear-cutting, because it elevates levels of methylmercury, a chemical compound detrimental to prenatal health, leading to birth defects and other health problems in both humans and animals. Flooding also destroys animal habitats and contributes to climate change via methane released by plants decomposing in newly flooded land.
Dams block fish passage, damaging the food web and causing extirpation of native species, such as lake sturgeon, resulting in the loss of traditional northern Indigenous livelihoods that rely on hunting, trapping and fishing.
Manitoba Hydro is one of the largest integrated electricity and natural gas distribution utilities in Canada. The Crown corporation frames itself as green and operating for the public consumer. HAB does not believe that framing is accurate, and believes unrealistic clean-energy claims should be exposed.
Hydro continuously increases rates for Manitoba consumers while keeping its financial calculations secret. HAB demands to see justification for the increase of electricity bills; this needs to be a transparent process.
Manitoba’s ratepayers need to be able to see clearly why rates are increasing.
The corporate culture at Manitoba Hydro has been especially excessive in recent years, with one executive paid more than $740,000 in 2021 upon retirement and the CEO being considered for a bonus in 2022 — on top of her $513,000 salary. This is in direct contrast to how the frontline workers are treated, with strikes occurring in both 2021 and 2022 by unionized workers.
The Hydro Accountablity Board exists to support Manitobans’ right to a transparent and accountable Manitoba Hydro. Lives, livelihoods and our futures depend on it.
We welcome all networking opportunities and encourage those interested to follow our activities online at www.accountablehydro.ca and contact us with any questions, comments or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by members and volunteers with the Hydro Accountability Board.