The former Dean of Engineering of the Province of Manitoba recently aptly classified the Clean Environment Commission as a lapdog of government, while the Public Utilities Board prepares to hold a government-restricted and ordered review of part of a Manitoba Hydro’s capital expenditure plans. This after it withdrew a subpoena that required Manitoba Hydro to be forthright and release its export contracts to PUB for public scrutiny. So that agency also qualifies for lapdog status as well. Most recently Premier Selinger has drawn in the Auditor General to support the government’s claims related to infrastructure spending and how they supposedly will be funded by the recent 14%increase in the PST
In drawing in the Auditor General, the Premier is quoted as saying “Our intention is you’ll be able to see exactly where that money (monies arising from the PST hike) has gone. Our intention is to be very open about where this money is going”. Without knowing exactly the terms of reference government will provide the Auditor General, it is difficult to accept that the measure will have any real benefit for taxpayers. For one thing, cash flow and accounting charges against the Consolidated Fund are two different measures.
In 2010, the then-recently appointed Premier Selinger wrote government departments and agencies advising that he expected those departments and agencies would operate in an open and transparent way, unfortunately his government’s actions have fallen far short of his directive. In 2011, in the midst of the provincial election, the Premier touted his plans to order rebates to be paid to households if a basket of automobile insurance premiums, natural gas bills and electricity rates exceeded a basket of similar services for another province, failing to mention that any such rebate would come from the agencies and be reflected in rates – in short, a zero sum game.
The Auditor General, having first failed to audit Manitoba Hydro’s apparent $250 million costs for negotiating First Nation partnerships, despite claims that monies were spent improperly, recused herself and her office from examining a whistleblower’s allegations concerning Hydro’s massively expensive and risky development plans, let alone the economics of the plan itself. The Ombudsman followed up by rejecting the Taxpayer’s Federation’s bid to obtain details of the $250 million expenditure, despite the fact that the expenditures are or will be reflected in electricity rates.
The moral of the story is that these so-called oversight agencies are toothless government lapdogs and poodles. So if you are just a plain ordinary citizen be afraid.
Publius would feel a bit better if NDP cabinet members and Manitoba Hydro executives put up their pensions to support their claims that Hydro’s development plans will not lead to rate increases higher than Manitoba Hydro forecasts. As matters stand, only ratepayers stand behind the plan, and they have yet to see an open and transparent review of those plans, despite millions of dollars being spent each day on it.