Manitoba's opposition leader says he wants a full review of Manitoba Hydro's planned megaprojects before they proceed, but the province's energy minister says that won't be necessary.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister accused the NDP government on Monday of being too secretive about the $18 billion the Crown corporation is planning to spend over the next decade.
Pallister called for a joint review of the economic and environmental impacts of the projects, which include the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations and a new transmission line.
Pallister said with energy prices dropping in the United States, there are questions about whether Manitoba Hydro can recoup its spending through export sales. The utility's debt will triple, and future generations will have to pay for it, he said.
The province is already planning separate environmental and economic impacts studies, but Pallister said he wants a fuller review that would also require the government to lay out its economic projections.
The planned reviews by the Public Utilities Board and the Clean Environment Commission won't be enough, he said.
"By segregating the reviews, the NDP is keeping Manitobans in the dark," Pallister told reporters on Monday.
"By preventing a thorough and complete analysis of the planned expenditures, the NDP are keeping Manitobans in the dark."
Concerns short-sighted, says minister
Energy Minister Dave Chomiak brushed off the Tory leader's call for a joint review, saying the proper reviews will be done.
Chomiak added that the Tories are always complaining that building transmission lines and dams costs too much money, a view that he said is short-sighted.
"It's like a mortgage, and the fact is that future Manitobans are going to pay … amongst the lowest rates for hydro in North America," he told reporters on Monday.
"It's just like when you buy your house: you put down the capital, and you pay it off over a period of time."
Chomiak said the Tories raised similar concerns about the Limestone generating station in the 1960s, but that project has since paid for itself many times over.
"There's no energy project — be it oil, be it natural gas or be it hydro — that doesn't have a very high upfront capital cost," he said.
"But remember, with hydro, you're building something that's clean, green and lasts 100 years."
Chomiak said selling the electricity will not be an issue, as export sales have always made money and domestic demand has been growing.