Newly-elected Manitoba premier has strong feelings on Bipole III project

Manitoba’s Premier-elect has strong feelings about a $4.6 billion hydro transmission line in the province and is considering halting the project.

In a conference call with rural media this morning, the day after winning a record majority government for the Progressive Conservative Party, Brian Pallister said he will make a decision on the Bipole III powerline after speaking with outgoing Premier Greg Selinger and his staff.

“The Bipole III west line is one of the dumbest, most poorly considered projects in the history of any government, anywhere,” Pallister said.

“With respect to the Bipole III west line, I’m on it. We’ll do the best we can to get the information… so we know how to proceed…. (My) hope is we can still stop this project but I have to see the information first.”

The $4.6 billion power transmission project will run from northern hydroelectric dams to the Saskatchewan border, then west of Lake Manitoba before cutting across prime agricultural land in southern Manitoba.

Bipole III has been contentious since 2010 when Manitoba Hydro and the provincial government unveiled its route.

Landowners, engineers and former Manitoba Hydro executives have said the route is too long and expensive and will burden the utility with debt.

Many believe the line should run east of Lake Winnipeg, which would be shorter and likely cheaper to build.

Before the April 19 election, Pallister and the Tories laid out priorities for their first 100 days in office.

In that document they promised to send the “Bipole III project to the Public Utilities Board for a proper review.”

Pallister said he wants to collect all the relevant information on the status of Bipole III because the former NDP government concealed project details.

Manitoba Hydro has planned out a route and negotiated compensation with most landowners affected by the right of way, but it’s unclear how much money has been spent.

“I’ve asked for reports and gotten blacked out documents. I’ve not received reports… that have been done some time ago. This lack of openness and transparency has been a problem,” Pallister said.

“We’re going to get all the information we can, as quickly as possible, so we’re able to deal (with it) from a position of information.”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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