Rural Manitobans shouldn’t expect help from their urban cousins in battling three proposed power transmission lines because they don’t care what happens in farm country, according to a Conservative MLA.
“The people in Winnipeg don’t give a sh** about what happens on your land,” said Emerson MLA Cliff Graydon, although he also said two newly announced power projects may be in the best interest of the province.
There were similarly angry words from many of the two dozen attendees at a recent meeting organized by the Bipole III Coalition. Members of the group were caught off guard when two new projects — the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project and the St. Vital Transmission Complex — were announced this summer because as recently as this spring, Manitoba Hydro officials had indicated no new developments were on the horizon, said coalition president Karen Friesen.
“The lesson I’ve learned is you can’t trust the government and you can’t trust Hydro,” said Friesen, whose farm will be affected by the massive Bipole III line and may be affected by the St. Vital project.
She’s urging landowners and producers to come together under the umbrella of the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowners Associations, a non-profit organization that represents people facing expropriation.
“You should have the right to say no,” said the organization’s CEO, Dave Core, who addressed two other community meetings the day before the St. Malo gathering.
“We’re not antidevelopment here. Our role is to get your property rights as landowners respected and make sure we address all the liabilities, risk and costs that are imposed along with this.”
Following the meeting, Core was swamped with questions as people weighed their options.
“Our family farm is affected, the line looks like it is going to go through,” said Russell Calder, who farms with two brothers and several nephews near Letellier and is considering joining the landowners’ association.
His land is already impacted by a transmission line built in the 1960s — for which his father and uncle were paid $300 per tower.
“I don’t like that we don’t have any say in this… so we’re going to have to decide what to do now,” said Calder, adding he only learned that the St. Vital Transmission Complex was heading his way 10 days earlier.
The new line could be built within 60 feet of the existing lines on his property.
“And we have a 60-foot air seeder that doesn’t go between the hydro poles,” said Calder. “We’re stuck with this mess.”
Others at the meeting weren’t farmers, but homeowners who would see the new power lines cut in front of their houses.
“I’m retired, but what if I want to sell? Who knows how much this will devalue the property… what if it affects your health?” asked Camille Nault, who lives a few miles south of St. Pierre Jolys.
Nault said it’s too early to tell if Core’s organization is the right one for him, adding he needs to first learn more about the six per cent commission applied to successful settlements attained through the association’s ratification process. The membership fee is only $150, and there is no commission charged unless the lines cross your property and a settlement is negotiated, said Core.
Some landowners wait to see if the proposed routes fall on their property — holding out hope it will be pushed onto their neighbour’s land — before looking at options, said Core.
But there is strength in numbers, he said.
“The best deal we can get, will see the most landowners participating,” he said.
The Bipole III Coalition has also published an open letter to Premier Greg Selinger, calling on the government to reconsider the new power projects, and asserting they will lead to significant increases in the cost of electricity.
Friesen said both former Conservative premier Gary Filmon and former NDP premier, Ed Schreyer contributed to the letter, sharing their concerns.
“And how often to you think that happens?” Friesen said.