Provincial infrastructure minister Blaine Pedersen has gone missing.
At least that’s according to a full-page advertisement running this week on the cover of the Carman-based Valley Leader newspaper.
Local landowners affected by Bipole III paid for it, saying they’re frustrated the Progressive Conservative government has been unresponsive since their election last spring.
The ad states Pedersen (PC-Midland), who is their MLA, is a missing person not been heard from since his re-election, and “his last known activities including opposing Manitoba’s Bipole III boondoggle.”
The ad which wraps around the front and back of the paper, includes a full-page open letter addressed to the Midland MLA declaring his “silence on the matter “deafening these last nine months.”
They did this to get Pedersen and the provincial government to keep its promise to bring Manitoba Hydro to the bargaining table to get a fair business agreement with affected farmers, said Jurgen Kohler, a Brunkild-area farmer and chair of the Manitoba Bipole III Landowners Committee that paid for the ad.
Following a review last spring the new PC government said it could not reroute the hotly contested power line.
“But they (the government) also told us that they would make sure at the very least that we would have a fair voice at the table and we’d get to negotiate in good faith with Manitoba Hydro and that they’d hold Hydro to that,” Kohler said.
Their 40-member committee has numerous outstanding issues, from liability to biosecurity issues that will come with others having access to their land, that need to be negotiated, he said.
“And none of that has happened to this point.”
It’s out of sheer frustration, having heard nothing from Pedersen nor Premier Pallister as they’ve continued to press for this, that prompted them to take out the ad, he said.
“We’ve been trying to reach out to them for weeks now and we’ve had no response from Mr. Pedersen and no response from Mr. Pallister. This is very frustrating for us.”
Pedersen was instrumental in helping their group form, and urged them to join with the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA) to fight for their property rights, he added.
The letter says, ‘we are writing to express our disappointment and sense of betrayal at your abandonment of our fight since winning the election last spring.’
The funds to pay for the ad come from what they called a Pallister Accountability Fund which began accepting donations last fall.
They created the fund last fall as it started to worry them the government might just start to ignore the issue, Kohler said.
“You are seeing the first product (the ad) of the Pallister Accountability Fund,” he said.
As of Monday, however, they still had not heard from Pedersen. Their group was further frustrated to discover the ad wrap had been removed from the newspaper in some newsstand distribution boxes. The newspaper is available for free distribution on newsstands and distribution boxes in south-central Manitoba.
“We know on Thursday in the stand in front of the post office (in Carman) it was off,” said Kohler. “That’s extremely frustrating. It’s unbelievable.”
Pedersen’s constituency office in Carman contacted Monday for comment released the following statement at press time:
“This is an emotional issue and I respect the rights of these landowners to express their continued disappointment in the NDP’s decision to route Bipole III down the west side of the province.
“My duties as an elected member of the legislative assembly are first and foremost to my constituents, who I will continue to serve and ensure that their concerns are heard by the applicable ministry.”