Manitoba’s Ombudsman is celebrating national Right to Know week (September 23 to 28), asserting our individual and democratic right to access government-held information and promoting open, accessible and transparent government.
The Ombudsman notes that access to government-held information is critical to allow for effective scrutiny of government actions and decisions on the basis of hard information.
Unfortunately, the Ombudsman’s actions contradict his asserted values, at least with respect to one very important government-driven matter.
Manitoba Hydro, the sole shareholder of which being the NDP government of Manitoba, is embarked on a risk-laden adventure-in-trade which involves the borrowing of billions to construct two new hydroelectric generating dams and another major north-south transmission line, at a total cost in excess of $20-billion.
An important component of the plan involves getting northern First Nations to support it, and, towards that end, it appears Manitoba Hydro has already expended at least $224-million; money that in the end will have to be recouped from consumers in the form of higher electricity rates.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation sought access to the details of the reputed $224-million of negotiation, legal, consulting and sundry expenses, but Manitoba Hydro refused to provide it.
Subsequently, the Taxpayers Federation sought access to the information through the Ombudsman.
Unfortunately, just as the Ombudsman did with respect to allegations set out by a whistleblower, one who had previously been contracted by Hydro with respect to risk management issues, which was nothing, the Ombudsman supported Hydro refusal to allow the Taxpayers Federation access to the documentation for the $224-million of expenses.
It seems the Ombudsman is, similar to the government to which he reports (the Ombudsman is still operating in an ‘acting’ position, awaiting possible granting of the permanency of his appointment), ‘high’ on lofty statements of principle but ‘short’ on actual action (when the government doesn’t want action taken).
Just what would a proper review of the $224-million reveal? One can only guess!