Brandon West Progressive MLA Reg Helwer has presented his first bill in the Manitoba legislature, and got first reading of the Hydro Ratepayers Protection Act on Tuesday.
The bill demands that Manitoba Hydro review its capital spending projects through the Public Utilities Board to ensure the projects are economically viable before cutting cheques to pay for them.
Helwer said the Public Utilities Board has already asked for a review of Manitoba Hydro’s $20-billion capital plan.
“We have a full environmental review of projects in this province, and the Clean Environment Commission is going to have one going forward for Bipole 3 and we are also asking for a full economic review,” said Helwer, the Progressive Conservative Manitoba Hydro critic.
“Basically, you need to make a business case. You have to look at the alternatives to the project, the load forecast, the contracts for the sales of energy, the capital costs, how you are going to finance them, the effect on the Manitoba consumer, those types of things all need to be reviewed by the Public Utilities Board.”
Helwer said his bill requests Public Utilities Board review because as an opposition MLA, he is not allowed to present bills that have capital or economic requirements.
“There are restrictions on what I can do as a private member,” Helwer said. “It can’t have any money involved or be a monetary bill,” Helwer said. “They won’t accept it and the legislature would rule it out of order.”
Helwer said his bill was inspired by talks with other stakeholders who were concerned about Hydro’s spending plans.
“I don’t believe you can take care of the environment unless you have a solid economic grounding as well,” Helwer said.
Private members bills are like private members resolutions in that the likelihood of those originating from the opposition parties actually becoming law is rare unless the government of the day “finds them useful,” Helwer said.
The bill will be debated in the legislature, likely next week.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 16, 2012