On June 25th, former Governor General of Canada and former Premier of Manitoba Ed Schreyer spoke at a Frontier Centre luncheon. His topic was Manitoba Hydro’s plans (supported by the provincial government), to spend tens of billions of dollars to construct two new northern hydro-electric generating stations and Bipole III.
His talk was entitled: Dams and Transmission Lines, Are There Responsible Alternatives?
Premier Schreyer, who led the first NDP government in Canada, which, among other things, developed the first three northern dams – Kettle, Long Spruce and Jenpeg, which required the still-important and contentious regulation of Lake Winnipeg water levels. He noted that the cost per megawatt of power for the three new generating stations built during his administration were but a fraction of the current estimate for the building of Keeyask and Conawapa.
Premier Schreyer stated that he could not support additional construction (dams and transmission) at this time, holding the view that “perhaps (only) half of (the current) cost level (of new construction) could be justified as reasonable. He exhibited concern that going ahead with the development plan would lead to costs that could be “an albatross around Manitoba’s neck”. And, he described the west side route for Bipole III – which, he asserted, is not needed for domestic load – as a “massively foolish decision”, labelling it an issue of misuse of resources that speaks to the fragility of democracy.
Canada’s former Governor General evidenced no knowledge as to where Manitoba Hydro’s decisions were being made, asking, this with respect to Bipole III’s routing: “Who made the decision? Was it made in the Premier’s office? In Cabinet? In Caucus?”
He paraphrased Burke on the highest duty of a politician: to think for himself, not to be whipped into something he doesn’t believe in, either by his party or by his constituents. (“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”)
As to the (for many other observers, long overdue and improperly staffed) slated Needs for and Alternatives To (NFAT) hearing to be heard by the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Premier Schreyer commented:
“PUB MUST be given access to ALL the information they require”, and, “the exclusion of Bipole III routing from any review is “wrong headed”. He called for a full and open review.
Long in the service of the citizenry, the former Governor General of Canada and former Premier of Manitoba concluded by saying “We cannot be guided by wishful thinking.”
Publius ‘takes his hat off’ for Premier Schreyer, who has provided yet one more public service by openly and publicly expressing his views and concerns on the most expensive and risky venture ever to be contemplated by the Government of Manitoba.
Transparency, openness and accountability has been sadly missing with respect to the government/Manitoba Hydro plans, it was not so when Premier Schreyer was “in the chair”.