NDP Will Delay Bill that Weakens Public Utilities Board and Raise Hydro Rates
The NDP Official Opposition will invoke parliamentary power to delay Bill 35 The Public Utilities Ratepayer Protection and Regulatory Reform Act and prevent it from being guaranteed passage by April 2021.
“We believe in cheap electricity bills for working families and we reject the idea government can have carte blanche to set rates without public input. That’s why we’re we delaying this bill,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “The PCs have already made life less affordable for Manitobans. We’re delaying this bill in the hopes they come to their senses and abandon their plan.”
Bill 35 limits the Public Utilities Board’s (PUB) ability to independently set and regulate electricity and gas rates, and will open the door to the break up of Hydro. Instead, rates will be set by Cabinet order and the PUB’s approval will be subject to Treasury Board and government directives.
In the last five years, the Pallister PCs have tried to raise Hydro rates multiple times by as much as 7.9% — moves that would have cost Manitoba families thousands more on their electricity bills. It was the Public Utilities Board, whose mandate is to keep rates low for ratepayers, that denied the rate hikes. Each time, the PUB said the increases were unnecessary, pointing to historic investments which have allowed the Crown to generate millions in profit.
Bill 35 would be a further entrenching of the Pallister government’s political interference in Manitoba Hydro. Last year the Premier secretly directed the Crown to not to bid on a lucrative government contract, making room for BellMTS to secure the contract and win tens of millions of dollars in public funds. Their privatization agenda, which includes selling off Teshmont and winding down Manitoba Hydro International, is also costing families more.
“The Pallister government has already increased bills by hundreds of dollars for Manitobans during this pandemic,” said NDP Hydro Critic Adrien Sala. “They did it by subverting laws requiring public hearings and forcing through an unnecessary rate hike. This bill would allow the PCs to make that unfair process the norm, rather than an exception. This government has caused enough chaos for Manitoba Hydro already, it’s time to leave our Crowns and their public regulators alone and keep rates low.”