The Manitoba Hydro Board called out the provincial government in a scathing multi-page resignation letter citing not just serious concerns over Hydro’s governance but an ‘irresponsible’ government.
In an unprecedented move, the entire Conservative appointed Manitoba Hydro Board resigned en masse Wednesday morning.
680 CJOB’s Richard Cloutier interviewed former Manitoba Hydro Chair Sandy Riley late Thursday afternoon.
Global News has obtained an exclusive copy of the full resignation letter from the board chairperson and its members to Minister of Crown Services Cliff Cullen.
In the three-page letter the board said despite Chairman Sanford Riley’s “numerous requests” there had been no face-to-face meeting with Premier Brian Pallister since October 2016.
The board was appointed in May 2016 by the Conservative government.
In the letter, the board said the province was looking to hire a board with “deep business and financial experience to provide proper, meaningful oversight and direction to the province’s largest business….Many of us have extensive experience…and we expected that our collective backgrounds would be very helpful…”
But the letter said a ‘lack of engagement from the Principal decision maker” made their jobs impossible.
“We wish to reiterate our serious concerns regarding the circumstances surrounding the governance at Manitoba Hydro,” the board said. It goes on to say the board “had been offered no support or guidance on how to attempt to tackle those financial challenges.”
On Wednesday, the premier said the board resigned because the province would not allow Hydro to make a $70 million compensation payout to the Manitoba Metis Federation.
“The reason for the resignations … is that the board wants to proceed with a payment to a group in an attempt to make the process on the Minnesota-Manitoba transmission go smoother and we don’t agree with that payment,” he said, calling the proposed payment “persuasion money.”
In a statement MMF President David Chartrand accused the Premier of using “race card” tactics to “divide Manitobans for his own failings.”
Chartrand said the MMF had reached an agreement with the Hydro Board that would save taxpayers money and prevent unnecessary delays.
The board, however, was told that could no longer happen.
“We have been advised by the province that Hydro is not authorized to enter into agreements with Manitoba’s Indigenous communities, an integral part of Hydro’s activities,” the letter reads.
Manitoba Hydro currently holds a $16.4 billion debt that is projected to reach $25 billion within the next two to three years.
“To find a solution in any situation, communication is essential, and leadership and clear guidance are crucial,” the board said.
The board said it has attempted to engage with the province to find solutions to help balance Hydro’s books and to talk to the premier before it applied to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for 7.9 per cent rate increases for each of the next six years.
The board continually asked for meetings with the premier and said it refused to put a rate application to the PUB without first explaining the rationale to the province.
That meeting never happened.
“We believe this is irresponsible. The previous government rightly deserves to be criticized for putting Manitoba Hydro into such a perilous state. But those who become aware of the problems and fail to deal with them are perhaps equally responsible. The ultimate responsibility for Hydro rests with the government. Manitoba Hydro’s issues still ultimately belong to the Premier and the government of the day.”
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