'This is very sneaky': Province tells Manitoba Hydro to up its rate this winter
Manitobans may see a nearly three per cent increase on their Hydro bill this December, after the province introduced new legislation that requires a hike on rates.
On Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend, the Progressive Conservative government tabled new legislation as a part of its Budget Bill that requires Manitoba Hydro to increase rates on power by 2.9 per cent effective December 1, 2020.
"We want to make life more affordable for Manitobans," Manitoba's finance minister Scott Fielding told reporters when asked why the province was upping Hydro rates.
Fielding said he anticipates the normal process of multi-year rate reviews with the Public Utilities Board (PUB) to happen, but said this is a "transition year" with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This is a very unique year – it is a transition year clearly with Hydro and our agenda with reforming the PUB. We think it is important."
This new legislation would mean the Hydro rate increase does not go before the PUB – a move Manitoba's opposition party leaders are condemning as 'sneaky' and 'plain wrong.'
"Mr. Pallister and his PC's want to raise your Hydro bills going into next year, during a pandemic right before the holidays – I don't think that's right," said Manitoba's NDP leader Wab Kinew.
"Merry Christmas from the Pallister government."
Kinew said while there are lots of issues the NDP are going to be debating, the Hydro rate increase is a major concern.
"This is very sneaky, very underhanded, and it just is plain wrong to make life more expensive in Manitoba during a recession in a pandemic that has harmed so many families."
He said the NDP will be pushing back on the bill.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said this is an example of political interference in Manitoba Hydro.
"These are decisions that need to be made by the PUB, which the Pallister government is undermining," he said. "I've said it before – the premier is a control freak and he is determined to control Crown corporations, and I have said that is a dangerous idea."
Manitoba Hydro rates increased in June 2019. The Crown corporation had requested a 3.5 per cent increase, but the PUB approved a 2.5 per cent increase.
CTV News has reached out to Manitoba Hydro for comment.