Manitoba

NDP raises spectre of Manitoba Hydro's privatization with new CEO

The upcoming CEO of Manitoba Hydro knows a thing or two about gradually privatizing a publicly-owned energy utility, the opposition NDP warns.

Saying Jay Grewal 'is somehow a privatizer is just a massive stretch,' premier responds

The incoming CEO of Manitoba Hydro knows a thing or two about gradually privatizing a publicly-owned energy utility, the opposition NDP says.

The party alleged that Jay Grewal, revealed Thursday as the first female CEO and president in the Crown corporation's history, is tasked with selling off Manitoba Hydro.

She was employed with B.C. Hydro when premier Gordon Campbell — recently hired by the Manitoba government to investigate costly overruns on two electricity megaprojects — sold off segments of the asset, the Manitoba NDP said.

Grewal then became managing director of Accenture, a global management consulting firm, which acquired several B.C. Hydro departments.

"The appointment of Ms. Grewal is another sign that the Pallister government is setting the stage for the privatization of Manitoba Hydro," leader Wab Kinew said in a statement.

"She worked with Gordon Campbell to privatize parts of B.C. Hydro despite his promises to keep it public. Their actions led to huge payouts for corporate firms and higher bills for regular families. We can't allow this to happen in Manitoba," he said.

A familiar playbook, Kinew says

During question period, Kinew said Grewal, a senior executive at B.C. Hydro, helped execute Campbell's privatization plan.

It was a Tory government, Kinew added, which privatized MTS in the 1990s after promising the public it would keep the telecommunications company under its ownership.

"He's bringing that playbook back to Manitoba," he said of the current premier.

Afterwards, an animated Brian Pallister said the NDP was trotting out the same trial balloon they've floated for decades.

"This is more a sign that the NDP's just run out of new ideas and they're going back to the same old fearmongering," he said. "Halloween is over."

Pallister said Grewal held a "junior role" at B.C. Hydro when segments of the utility was outsourced, "but wasn't in a position of decision-making or on the lead of the file," he said. "Making the accusation that Ms. Grewal is somehow a privatizer is just a massive stretch."

Grewal will replace the retiring Kelvin Shepherd at Hydro's top post on Feb. 1, 2019. She currently serves as the president and CEO of Northwest Territories Power Corp.

She's also held senior executive roles with Capstone Mining and CIBC World Markets, in addition to B.C. Hydro and Accenture.

Referendums needed to privatize

Manitoba Hydro can only be privatized through a referendum, Pallister reminded reporters.

He was asked by Kinew during question period, and reporters afterward, to say he would never privatize Manitoba Hydro, but he brushed off the question as unnecessary.

"How many times do I have to? You guys have asked me this 40, 50 times, come on."

Pallister commended Grewal and Campbell as qualified individuals who don't deserve to have their good names sullied by the NDP.

The opposition party left Hydro, whose net debt exceeds $19 billion, in disarray, Pallister said.

"We inherited a mess and we have good help now to clean it up."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

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

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