Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Power Trip-Wires

With all the buzz around Broadway and Queen's Park, you'd think big changes are on the way following Harper's EcoTrust announcements. Specifically, Doer and McGuinty are hearalding Harper's $586M downpayment on the much-hearalded "East-West Power Grid" as the first big step toward creating a hydro-pipeline between Manitoba and Ontario. There are reasons to be wary, however:

(1) This is by no means the first time we've heard these promises. Manitoba governments from Schreyer to Filmon (and now, Doer) have trumpeted agreements with Queen's Park in the past, only to have Ontario pull-out when the costing has been completed. If memory serves me, Filmon had a similar Conowapa deal with Pederson; then Harris was elected. The Ontario Tories are known for their pursuit of Ontario-first policies and -- quite understandably, considering the Commonsense Revolution -- they immediately quashed plans to develop the grid. It remains to be seen whether John Tory would pursue the same Ontario-centric policy, although the Conservatives' focus on provincial nuclear energy suggests this is most certainly the case.

(2) This leads to a second concern: election outcomes. Most major policy announcements and funding commitments take place around election time, as governing parties attempt to leverage popular projects into re-election. In this case, all three governments -- Manitoba, Ontario and the Feds -- will make their commitments known in their upcoming budgets. While each is ahead in its respective polls, there's no guarantee that Doer, McGuinty or Harper will be around next year to fulfill the Conowapa promise.

Ever an optimist, I'm keeping an open mind. This time around, the "grid" is being framed as an environmental issue, and not one focused on Manitoba's economic interests or Ontario's electrical sovereignty. This may help Ontario politicians sell the idea to the electorate. Plus, this is the first time that Ottawa has stepped in to offer funding (a full third of the cost). This said, we should all be a little more wary of the obstacles still in place.


Anonymous said...

It will be cheaper to buy other's excess power than to build a new nuke plant in Ontario.

Anonymous said...

Cheaper, cleaner, safer. Amen to that.