Feds commit $18.7 million to help Manitoba deliver hydroelectricity to coal-powered Saskatchewan

Ottawa says the hydroelectricity in Manitoba deserves to be shared. It will spend $18.7 million to help cover the cost of a new transmission line running from western Manitoba to Saskatchewan.

'We're happy to share that green power,' Liberal MP Jim Carr says of Birtle line

Winnipeg MP Jim Carr, the prime minister's special adviser for the Prairies, announces $18.7 million in federal funding to support the construction of the Birtle Transmission Line. (Ian Froese/CBC)

Ottawa says the hydroelectricity in Manitoba deserves to be shared.

The federal government announced Monday it would spend $18.7 million to help pay the bill for a new transmission line running from western Manitoba to Saskatchewan.

The Manitoba Hydro project will help Saskatchewan reduce its dependence on coal power, Winnipeg MP Jim Carr said.

"We're happy to share that green power. We're happy to see that that green power is replacing coal-fired electricity from a neighbouring province," said Carr, who made the announcement Monday morning at Hydro's headquarters in downtown Winnipeg.

"It's actually a model and a template for the rest of the country, right across the energy sector," he said.

The 80-kilometre transmission line will originate south of Birtle, Man., and run toward the Saskatchewan border at Tantallon, Sask.

'Wave of the future'

Construction of the Birtle Transmission Project is slated to begin this summer. It is expected to be completed by mid-2021.

Carr portrayed the collaboration between the federal and provincial governments as the "wave of the future" toward greener energy sources like hydroelectricity.

"As long as the rivers flow and the rains come and, may I say, governments co-operate, I see the future as a very bright one for Manitoba, for Saskatchewan and for all of Canada."

The rest of the project's cost — around $42 million — will be covered by Manitoba Hydro, a provincial Crown utility. 

The 230-kilovolt transmission line will allow up to 215 megawatts of renewable hydroelectricity — a surplus resource in Manitoba — to transfer to the energy grid belonging to SaskPower. 

The 80-kilometre Manitoba Hydro transmission line will originate south of Birtle, Man., and run toward the Saskatchewan border at Tantallon, Sask. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"It was a line that we were going to build in any event, because it was in Manitoba's best interest because of the export of the power and the value that brings back to Manitoba," said Jay Grewal, Hydro's president and chief executive officer.

Manitoba's hydroelectricity is a vital part of Saskatchewan's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the federal government said in a news release. Federal regulations stipulate all coal-fired power stations must be decommissioned by 2030 or after 50 years of operation, whichever comes first.

The announcement comes as the Manitoba government continues to lob criticism at Ottawa for not giving the province enough credit for its green investments, such as hydroelectricity. 

That perceived disrespect was given as one of the reasons the Manitoba government yanked a carbon tax from its own green plan in 2018.

The federal government imposed its own carbon tax, saying the province's proposed flat $25 a tonne carbon tax wasn't good enough.

'Everybody's interests'

Carr said Ottawa's decision to help pay for the transmission line is unrelated to those discussions.  

"It's not a matter of respecting what one province or what another province might say. It's a matter of looking where there is an alignment of our interests, and here there's a very good example of alignment of everybody's interests," he said.

"We're not looking to second-guess or question motives. We're looking to move forward."

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister hinted last week the province may propose a new carbon tax deal, but wouldn't reveal what price he was willing to agree to. 

On Monday, Carr did not elaborate on the nature of those negotiations with the Manitoba government, but said both parties are striving to find common ground.

"I know that ministers are very seized of that and working diligently to make sure that's where we end up."

About the Author

Ian Froese


Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email:

With files from The Canadian Press


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