Manitoba Metis Federation up in arms over ‘senseless’ PUB decision

The Manitoba Public Utilities Board deemed a transmission line to serve two new dams beyond scope of its hearings

WINNIPEG, MB, Mar 24, 2014/ Troy Media/ – The Manitoba Public Utilities Board (PUB) decision not to include the construction of the $3.28 billion Bi-pole III transmission line as part of Manitoba Hydro’s plan to build two new dams (Conawapa and Keeyask) and a transmission line to run to Minnesota doesn’t make sense.

Just ask the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF), which represents the interests of Metis people who will be affected by these developments. The MMF is “reviewing the decision and exploring all options”, said Jack Park, the MMF’s Minister responsible for Hydro Development. The MMF argues that Bipole III is an integral part of the dams – how else to carry the power generated from the dams? – but PUB declared the line to be beyond the scope of its hearings as based on the terms of reference provided by the province.

But as Dave Ennis of Winnipeg wrote in a letter to the Winnipeg Free Press earlier this month, “The real problem with those terms of reference and the PUB is that finding the truth is deemed out of scope”.

All Manitobans should be upset with the PUB decision.

As MMF President David Chartrand said last week, “Without Bipole III, the dams are out the door. They have absolutely no value.”

At present, the power from northern dams is transmitted by Bipoles I and II. Originally, these dams and their hydro-electric power were intended to provide Manitoba’s larger population in the south with inexpensive, reliable and sustainable, “clean” energy. But the provincial government has made a lot of “to do” about selling surplus energy to markets in the United States and Ontario. This is the rationale that most Manitobans believe is behind spending billions of dollars to build the two new dams.

The provincial government talks about $16 billion in sales to the American market over the next 20 years, and a new Manitoba-Minnesota transmission line. What is going to create that much power and feed that line? The two new dams and Bipole III.

So how can you hold hearings about the two new dams without including presentations concerning Bipole III? But the better question is: How can you hold hearings without being truthful about the entire matter?

The MMF has outlined decades of denial and disrespect that Manitoba Hydro has directed at Metis people throughout the history of this publicly-owned company. Metis people, land owners, farmers, fishermen, hunters and trappers whose land and livelihoods have been negatively affected by the environmental impact of the Grand Rapids Dam, the Churchill River Diversion, dams on the Burntwood Nelson River system, including Wuskwatim, and were not allowed to speak or given standing during negotiations leading to the Northern Flood Agreement.

The aboriginal rights and jurisdiction of Metis people have been affirmed by Canada’s Supreme Court and Parliament, and by the United Nations. This national and international support has repeatedly been ignored by Manitoba Hydro, which has been less than truthful in its presentations nationally and internationally when claiming to have “respected indigenous rights, consulted with and obtained informed consent” before proceeding with its projects. And it continues to try and deny Metis people their rights as it bulldozes ahead with projects like Keeyask and Conawapa and Bipole III.

The bogus claim that Bipole III is beyond the scope of the PUB hearings is just another tactic by Manitoba Hydro to exclude Metis people and to deny them their rights.

All Manitobans should be concerned that a publicly-owned corporation and a publicly-appointed regulatory board can stretch the truth to its limit simply to serve a political agenda. If Manitoba Hydro, a company owned by taxpayers, and PUB, a taxpayer-funded watchdog of taxpayer-owned companies, can behave like this, who is really running things in this supposedly democratic province?

Troy Media’s Eye on Manitoba columnist Don Marks is a Winnipeg-based writer.

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