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Report shows Manitoba Hydro debt the ‘scandal of the century’: premier

Click to play video: 'Crown Services minister says Bill 35 ensures Manitoba Hydro operations are ‘transparent’' Crown Services minister says Bill 35 ensures Manitoba Hydro operations are ‘transparent’
Manitoba’s Crown Service Minister Jeff Wharton on Monday discussed the provincial government’s introduction of Bill 35, which he said would “ensure all current and future operations of our publicly-owned Manitoba Hydro are transparent and fully accountable to all Manitobans.” – Mar 1, 2021

Premier Brian Pallister says the handling of Manitoba Hydro under the former NDP government is “the scandal of the century.”

A review of the Crown corporation released last week found a lack of government oversight led to cost overruns and a large increase in debt.

Read more: Report points finger at NDP interference as major factor in Manitoba Hydro cost overruns

The review by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall delved into construction of the Bipole Three transmission line and the Keeyask generating station.

The projects together were $3.7 billion over the initial budget.

Click to play video: 'Report points finger at NDP interference as major factor in Manitoba Hydro cost overruns' Report points finger at NDP interference as major factor in Manitoba Hydro cost overruns
Report points finger at NDP interference as major factor in Manitoba Hydro cost overruns – Feb 26, 2021

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew has expressed concerns that the report is a step toward privatization and deregulation.

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Pallister says his Progressive Conservative government has no intention of moving in that direction.

Read more: Manitoba landowners group wants to halt controversial Hydro project

He says the government wants to guarantee Manitobans have a say on major decisions.

“We are going to take steps to strengthen referendum requirements to ensure Manitobans have their fair say,” Pallister said.

Pallister did not provide more details on what any changes may look like.

The two projects were built over the last 15 years. In that time, Manitoba Hydro’s debt tripled to more than $23 billion.

Read more: Manitoba Hydro has ‘no choice’ but to move forward with BiPole III

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Wall’s report said Manitoba Hydro officials and the former NDP government overestimated the potential for export sales needed to justify the projects.

It said the former government didn’t engage with the Manitoba Hydro board even as expenses grew.

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374 cases, 2 more deaths and COVID-19 outbreak declared at Keeyask Wednesday – Nov 4, 2020

Costs were further increased in 2007 after the government ordered the Crown to divert the transmission line through western Manitoba, saying it was necessary to protect pristine boreal forest.

Wall’s report said if the line had been built straight down the east side of the province as originally proposed, Hydro could have avoided up to $1 billion in additional costs.

Read more: Long-awaited Bipole III, Keeyask review to be released Friday, premier says

Pallister’s government hired Wall to do the review. The premier thanked Wall on Monday for his report into what Pallister called a $10-billion scandal, “as far as I’m concerned the scandal of the century.”

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“This is the largest and most significant mismanagement of taxpayers’ funds we have ever seen,” Pallister said.

“We are committed to ensuring that this will never happen again.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba Hydro has ‘no choice’ but to move forward with BiPole III' Manitoba Hydro has ‘no choice’ but to move forward with BiPole III
Manitoba Hydro has ‘no choice’ but to move forward with BiPole III – Sep 21, 2016

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