Manitoba

Tories promise independent Manitoba Hydro oversight agency

A Progressive Conservative government would establish an independent demand-side management agency to oversee Manitoba Hydro, party leader Brian Pallister said Tuesday morning.

PC Leader Brian Pallister wants independent body to monitor effectiveness of Hydro programs

Tory Leader Brian Pallister releases "important pillar" of green strategy, to create an independent demand-side management agency for Manitoba Hydro. (CBC)

A Progressive Conservative government would establish an independent demand-side management agency to oversee Manitoba Hydro, party leader Brian Pallister said Tuesday morning.

"We want to establish an independent energy authority that has clear oversight frameworks," Pallister said. "It has clear reporting requirements and performance requirements that it deliver, that is key." 

Pallister said only an outside agency can assess how effectively Hydro is meeting its goals.

"The right approach for us to manage any of our resources is to make sure that we're protecting our environment, … that we seek innovation, and … make sure we can generate jobs for our people. But to trust that Manitoba Hydro, managing its own demand-side management policies, is going to do that is in a sense like trusting the fox with the hen house. It's not in the  nature of Manitoba Hydro's mandate to reduce our need to use hydro," Pallister said.

The oversight agency idea was first recommended by the Public Utilities Report in a report tabled in June 2014. 

In December 2015, the NDP, delivering its strategy to fight climate change, included a plan to create a demand-side management agency — but said it would be a subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro.

On Tuesday, Pallister criticized the NDP's plan because it would have Hydro overseeing itself, he said.

"[The PC's] want to see a separation, an independence," Pallister said. 

NDP confusion over plans for oversight agency 

Minister responsible for Hydro unclear with NDP plan for oversight agency. 2:09

Despite the NDP's promise in December, Tuesday afternoon, Eric Robinson, the minister responsible for hydro, said he was unable to explain if the oversight agency would be independent or connected to Hydro. 

"We're carrying on with the work on that, nothing solid has been developed on that," said Robinson. 

When pressed by journalists why just three months ago the government's position on the oversight agency was that it should be a subsidiary of Hydro, yet today, it remained unclear, Robinson could not explain. 

"No, it hasn't changed. You've lost me," Robinson said. 

Robinson said he would wait for recommendations before determining what the agency would look like. 

When CBC News told Robinson this recommendation was made to government in a June 2014 PUB report, Robinson said he hadn't reviewed them yet, but couldn't explain the delay. 

"Let me get some details on it. Give me a break," Robinson said, as he returned to the house for debate. 

This is the second NDP minister of the day to be offered up to comment on the PC's plan of the demand-side management agency and yet be unaware of the status of the NDP's plan. 

Earlier in the day, Innovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak said the NDP was drafting a bill to legislate the oversight agency. 

"We will be providing an independent demand-side agency," he said. "The nuances as to whether it will be arms-length or subsidiary, I don't have that answer today because actually I'm not the minister."

A few minutes after the Robinson interview, the NDP said in a statement its "agency will be governed by an independent board and will report to the Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro as well as Manitoba Hydro."

"By keeping our demand side management publicly owned, we will be able to lower energy costs for hard working, middle class Manitobans," the statement said. 

The NDP took the opportunity to reiterate its fear a Tory government would sell off or privatise Manitoba Hydro.

When asked if he will privatise Manitoba Hydro, in whole or in part, PC Leader Brian Pallister said a Tory government will not. 

About the Author

Chris Glover

CBC News Reporter

Chris Glover has been a reporter, anchor and producer with CBC News for a decade. He’s an award winning storyteller, who has travelled the country in search of fascinating characters with compelling stories to share on TV, radio and online. A series he helped spearhead at CBC Toronto, No Fixed Address, won a national RTDNA award in 2017 and the municipal election special he anchored in 2018 was just nominated for an RTDNA award for best live special.