Efficiency Manitoba doesn't seem efficient to PC MLA
MLA argues with his own government over new agency
PC MLA Steven Fletcher is stocked up with snacks for a long committee night Tuesday at the Legislature.
If procedural wrangling doesn't cut him back, the member for Assiniboia plans to go deep into the night with questions about Efficiency Manitoba.
The former federal MP and Conservative cabinet minister has already burned through several hours of committee time in a session last week.
The entity is a proposal of his own government that would be spun out of Manitoba Hydro and create the province's first new crown corporation in years.
Fletcher says he has plenty of concerns about a new agency mandated to promote what is referred to as the demand-side management of energy use through the promotion of efficiency and conservation.
"What's the hurry? Let's consult and get some more feedback and look for other ways to maximize the usage of the huge supply that we have," Fletcher told CBC News.
Fletcher says Manitoba is in an unusual position with few greenhouse gas emissions, an oversupply of clean electricity and the potential of substantial rate increases in the future.
"To create an entity that reduces the demand for the very cleanest power that can possibly be generated doesn't make sense," Fletcher says.
Fletcher also has issues with start-up costs for a new crown corporation, suggesting Efficiency Manitoba could ring up a bill of $75 to $100 million to get running.
"Why would we create a new crown corporation with all the overhead that would try and reduce the product when there is a lot of it, at the same time as the price is going through the roof and the replacements for that product are all more expensive and arguably dirtier," Fletcher argues.
Premier Brian Pallister fielded questions in the Legislature Tuesday about Efficiency Manitoba and defended the plan.
"It is something we are going to adopt because we do want to keep hydro rates low for Manitobans, given the massive misadventure of the roll-of-the-dice previous government who gambled the future of Manitoba Hydro to Americanize it," Pallister told the house.
But Fletcher is undaunted he's become an outlier within his own party by challenging its plan.
"Creating a new crown corporation and having Manitoba Hydro pay for it to the tune of 75 or a 100 million dollars to reduce the demand for the product Hydro generates, when the product is clean? I have questions about it," Fletcher says.
Fletcher is rapidly becoming a gadfly in the Manitoba Legislature. He has seven or eight private members bills on the go currently and plans to introduce 30 or so more.
When asked if he's been told to toe the party line or back off, he answers with a slow smile.
"I am just doing my job and I've always done that. I'm not looking for trouble. I'm not looking for favour or fear...I have no expectations about anything. That's up to my constituents and I hope they evaluate my private members bills on their merits," Fletcher says.