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Manitoba launches ‘formal process’ to respond to review of Hydro projects

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The Pallister government is preparing a team to respond to a report that found massive cost overruns on a pair of Manitoba Hydro projects.

The report commissioned by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall was released earlier this spring.

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

It found the Keeyask generating station and Bipole III transmission projects were a combined $3.7 billion over budget and pointed to the former NDP government’s insistence the transmission line run down the western side of the province as a major factor.

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

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Pallister commits to recommendations laid out in Wall Report – Mar 11, 2021

The report also found the former government did little to prevent costs from spiralling and was more focused on getting the projects completed.

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At the time of the report’s release, Premier Brian Pallister committed to its 51 recommendations.

On Friday, Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton said the government has established a formal process, including a project team to respond to the recommendations and an external review panel to provide “direction and guidance” for future Manitoba Hydro decisions.

“Our government is committed to taking action to create strong and transparent policies to ensure future Manitoba Hydro projects are both accountable and demonstrate clear values to Manitobans,” said Wharton in a government release.

“The external experts will support the project team on critical recommendations in the areas of procurement and contracting. They will serve in an advisory capacity over the next year to guide the development of action plans that address these recommendations.”

The team will include officials from all over government, Wharton said, and the panel will be made up of three outside experts including a former president of Project Delivery at Infrastructure Ontario.

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As well as preparing a response to all of the report’s recommendations, Wharton said the team will further examine a number of issues, including the “impact of project labour agreements,” and take a deeper look at the Bipole III routing decision.

The team looks to officially respond to the recommendations in the fall of 2022, Wharton said.

The current NDP Opposition has said the report from Wall, a former Saskatchewan Party leader, was the work of a political operative.

“Typically these types of reports would be produced by a judge or an expert in their field,” Hydro critic Adrien Sala said when the report was released in February.

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Read more: Manitoba hires former B.C. premier to probe Hydro project costs

“Instead, the (Tories) have decided to hire their friend and political ally … to write a report that would tell them exactly what it was that they wanted to hear.”

Wall was commissioned by the province’s current Progressive Conservative government to conduct the review, which cost just under $1 million.

–With files from Skylar Peters and The Canadian Press

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