Manitoba opposition parties renew criticism of hydro review after departure of Gordon Campbell

By | February 20, 2019

Manitoba’s opposition parties are again questioning the purpose of a hydro review following the departure of the former politician hired to lead the process.

The province hired former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell last fall to mount an external economic review of the decision-making process behind the Keeyask Generating Station and the Bipole III power transmission line projects, both of which are estimated to have gone billions of dollars over budget.

Campbell is now facing sexual assault allegations in the U.K. On Tuesday, the Manitoba government confirmed the former B.C. premier will step aside for the remainder of the review.

The province also said on Tuesday the review will continue. This led Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew to describe the review as a “political game” because it’s continuing on without a leader.

“Essentially, Gordon Campbell is just the figurehead, the hood ornament, on this vehicle that’s being driven out of the premier’s office, by [Premier Brian] Pallister himself,” Kinew said Wednesday at the Manitoba Legislative Building.

He again questioned the province’s decision to spend $2.5 million on the hydro review.

Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont also called the review a waste of money and said it’s clear what went wrong with Manitoba Hydro.

He encouraged the province to stop skimming a dividend off hydro operations.

The PC government stood by the Hydro review, insisting Manitobans are owed an explanation for ballooning Keeyask and Bipole III costs.

Hydro estimated in a 2017 annual report that Bipole III could cost over $5.04 billion when all is said and done, up from the initial estimate of $2.2 billion.

The expected cost of Keeyask, originally projected to cost $6.5 billion, ballooned to $8.7 billion in 2017, according to Hydro. An outside review released the same year estimated the final cost could be more like $10.5 billion.

“The review will continue and, if required, the government can designate independent, contracted staff currently assigned to the review with the powers set out under the Evidence Act. That is not required at this stage, however,” Crown Services Minister Colleen Mayer said in a statement.​

​She said the NDP opposes the hydro review “because they know it would reveal their gross mismanagement and their attempts to sweep their many failures under the rug.”