About 100 people rallied outside the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday to speak out against the planned route for the Bipole III hydro line.
The crowd that attended the protest included farmers, property owners, First Nations, retired Manitoba Hydro staff and others who oppose the provincial government's plan to build the high-voltage transmission line along the west side of Lake Manitoba.
"We are talking about forcing hundreds of families to live within feet of this thing and nobody knows the long-term implications, health and safety concerns," said Karen Friesen, who farms near Niverville, Man.
Friesen, who heads up a coalition against Bipole III's west-side route, said the Manitoba Hydro line would run through her farm if it is built as planned.
"If you're sitting on my deck, it will be about 600 feet from my back deck," she said.
Chanting "let's go east" during the rally, the protesters said they want the transmission line to run along the east side of Lake Winnipeg instead.
The Bipole III line will run 1,400 kilometres and will cost more than $3 billion to build. Opponents argue that it will cost at least $1 billion more than the east-side route, which is 50 per cent shorter.
East-side plan overruled
In 2007, the NDP government overruled Manitoba Hydro's original plan to run the line down the east side of Lake Winnipeg. A major factor was the protection of a proposed UNESCO World Heritage site in that area.
The site, which the province is still seeking to have declared, contains 40,000 square kilometres of vast boreal forest, rivers, lakes and wetlands spread across the Canadian shield and straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border.
"Would you trust your government to take out your appendix? No, I don't think so," Jim Graham, a retired engineering professor, said at Tuesday's protest.
"Why would you trust them, then, to make engineering decisions? Because that's what they've done."
NDP Leader Greg Selinger, who is seeking another government mandate in the Oct. 4 provincial election, said Manitoba Hydro will negotiate away the problems landowners have with the current Bipole III plan.
"There will be compensation packages offered by Manitoba Hydro if anybody's directly impacted," Selinger told reporters on Tuesday.
But Friesen and others at the rally said they are simply not interested in living near a hydro transmission line.
"They will have to expropriate many of the landowners," she said.
The NDP and Liberals did not attend Tuesday's protest, but Progressive Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen told the crowd that he would move the project to the east side if his party is elected. The Green Party also spoke at the event.