Crown Services committee meeting years overdue, needs to talk Hydro controversy: Kinew

NDP Leader Wab Kinew wants the standing committee on Crown Services to meet immediately to discuss the situation at Manitoba Hydro.

NDP leader calls for immediate meeting of provincial committee; Tories counter that delay is NDP's fault

Opposition Leader Wab Kinew called on the province's Crown Services standing committee to meet about the Manitoba Hydro board resignations. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)

NDP Leader Wab Kinew wants the standing committee on Crown Services to meet immediately to discuss the situation at Manitoba Hydro. 

The standing committee hasn't met to discuss Hydro since October 2016

Kinew says it's about time it did.

"This government passed a law last year about accountability for Crown corporations and in that law they made references to referring a ton of stuff to this committee, so all sorts of reports get referred to this committee," Kinew said.

MLAs attend the standing committee meetings, but they're open to the public. Annual reports, for example, are permanently referred to the committee for discussion. 

Kinew said holding a committee meeting could help Manitobans get answers. 

"Some of the most important issues I'm hearing from Manitobans are about the rates, and how much Manitoba Hydro is contributing to our economy," Kinew said, citing Hydro's increasing debts and projects wrapping up in future years.

"We need answers as to why couldn't the premier talk to the board. What is the new board's solution going to be?"

Last week, the Hydro board resigned en masse. By Friday, the PC government had replaced five of the nine empty seats. 

Its new chair, Marina James has not met with the media to discuss her new role or the direction she plans to take the board in. 

Former board chair Sandy Riley said Pallister made "inaccurate" statements about why the board resigned en masse. 

"Given everything that's been going on at Hydro over the past week, I think it's very important that the average Manitoban gets answers as to what's going on," Kinew said. 

In response, Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen said in a statement that the PC government tried to organize such a meeting in the fall of 2017 — but says the NDP are the reason it didn't happen. 

"Twelve days prior to the meeting, citing an inability to have members present two days after their leadership convention, the NDP refused to attend the meeting and would not propose any new dates," Cullen's statement said.

"Due to the inability to bring their own Caucus together, this meeting was not rescheduled."

Cullen said PC members are committed to holding a Crown Services meeting as soon as the Public Utilities Board renders it's decision on the requested rate increase. 

"This will, however, depend on whether or not the NDP is able to bring their Caucus together to a meeting."​