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Letters – for Jun. 23, 2011

Bipole boondoggle continues

Another week, another round of rains drowning the grains and livestock sectors, another Manitoba Co-operator in the mail, and yet another letter from Rosann Wowchuk proclaiming the economic and environmental virtues of Bipole III.

The former minister of agriculture gives us the same story: west side is good; east side is bad. A $2-billion cost overrun is of no concern, information leaked from within Manitoba Hydro is untrue, well maybe “the parts that I agree with are true” she exclaims.

And the conclusion to this fairy tale is a spin doctor’s Picasso – an $11,000 cost per Manitoba resident becomes an actual credit. One suspects the truth is somewhere in between.

Even so, this web of vague cost projections of the various scenarios would be a very difficult sell even for a politician blessed with being charismatically radioactive.

And any hard-working taxpayer would have to be excused for asking why Madam Minister, if a good idea can sell itself, do you keep trying to sell, and then resell this idea of boondoggle Bipole III?

I am sure we will hear from you next week, again.

Brian Sterling Tilston, Manitoba

Bipole Numbers Askew

In her June 9 letter “Export sales will pay for Bipole III route,” Rosann Wowchuk repeats a per-family figure of $13.68 per year, advanced by Manitoba Hydro CEO Bob Brennan for the cost differential between a west-side transmission line and one on the east.

Brennan’s figure considers only the difference in the construction cost of the line resulting from the considerably greater length of the west-side line (1,364 km) compared to one on the east (885 km). He uses an out-of-date figure of $428 million that lowballs that cost difference instead of the more defensible $512 million determined by the Bipole III Coalition ( http://bipoleiiicoalition.ca).

His figure does not take into account the $320 million present value calculated by the Bipole III Coalition for the actual estimate of the 40 MW of additional power losses with a west-side line which have been identified by Brennan himself. Finally, it does not take into account the $160-million cost, again identified by Brennan, of importing additional power in the event of a single catastrophic outage of Bipoles I and II.

If all of these factors are considered, the additional cost of a west-side line cited by the Bipole III Coalition is very nearly a billion dollars, not the $428 million that Brennan uses.

Wowchuk is also Manitoba’s minister of finance. Instead of unquestioningly repeating this number, she, of all persons, should have doubts about a figure that is so different than other estimates of the cost differential.

Garland Laliberte

Dean Emeritus (Engineering), University of Manitoba

Wowchuk Owes Landowners An Apology

In a recent letter appearing in the June 9Manitoba Co-operator,Rosann Wowchuk, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro states that “The reality is that Manitoba families will not pay one cent for Bipole III; it will be paid for by export sales.”

Wowchuk’s claim, often voiced by Premier Greg Selinger as well, is at odds with sworn testimony given by Manitoba Hydro before Manitoba’s Public Utilities Board on April 5, 2011. In this hearing, Manitoba Hydro confirmed that “it would not be accurate to suggest that the cost of the bipole will be built into the price of the product being sold into the American marketplace.”

To a followup query, “And indeed, the price received from the export market, from export market sales, will be a function both of the price you achieve through fixed-price export contracts as well as what the market suggests on any particular day? Manitoba Hydro’s answer was, “That’s correct.”

As former minister of agriculture, she should also be aware of the disruption that the NDP government’s route choice for Bipole III will bring to the lives and operations of farmers in some of the most fertile soils in Manitoba and in one of the most favourable agro-climatic regions of Western Canada.

Wowchuk owes every landowner whose land the line will pass by an apology and an announcement of a return to the east-side route that Manitoba Hydro had always intended for Bipole III until it was forced to look at the ridiculous west-side route as the only option.

Karen Friesen Niverville, Manitoba

Election Only Plebiscite Needed

In his letter in the June 9 issue of theManitoba Co-operator, Ralph Goodale is being hypocritical yet again. He never even considered a vote when he rewrote the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) Act in 1998 in order to make it more difficult for farmers to market their own grain. He didn’t consult farmers when he and his government sent farmers to jail for trying to market their own grain. Nor was there a vote when the CWB was imposed on farmers in order to supply cheap grain to Europe in the 1940s.

Goodale needs to get his facts straight. We just had the biggest referendum there could be – a general election. Western Canadians overwhelmingly entrusted the Conservative government with a strong majority mandate. We have always been clear – we support the right of western Canadian farmers to market their own grain. The federal government has the authority to rescind the CWB Act, if that is what Parliament feels is appropriate. There is nothing that says that rescinding the CWB Act is subject to a plebiscite.

Our government is interested in seeing the CWB as one of the options available to farmers. The viability of the CWB now rests with the board to move forward. Any delay in the transition will only hinder the CWB’s ability to earn farmers’ business after Aug. 1, 2012. Our government is committed to creating an open market that attracts investment, encourages innovation, creates value-added jobs, and builds a stronger economy. Western Canadian grain farmers want an alternative to the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and we are working hard to give them that opportunity.

David Anderson, Member of Parliament for Cypress

Hills-Grasslands and Parliamentary Secretary for the Canadian Wheat Board

Legal Right, Maybe. Moral Right, No Way

Technically, I would agree with the governing Conservatives that they have the legal right to abolish any act they so choose. Governments change legislation all the time. But do they have the moral right to abolish the CWB without a vote by farmers? I think not.

The Conservatives claim to have received a mandate in the last election, which included their position to abolish the CWB. Given farmers make up only a minuscule portion of the general electorate (maybe one to two per cent). Even if all farmers voted a certain way, they could not sway the results of the election, making this assertion of a mandate particularly revolting.

I think there is an even bigger question to be asked. How is the government going to compensate farmers for the loss of the CWB?

When the Crow Rate Act was abolished some 25 years ago the government compensated producers.

The Crow Rate compensation is not the only compensation example one can reference. The recent buyout of the tobacco quotas in Ontario is a similar situation. Just because they have the power to make change doesn’t mean they can’t be held accountable.

If they have no plans to pay producers for this lost benefit then they should guarantee the CWB’s survival by mandating certain service agreements between the private grain entities and the CWB. Without guaranteed access to elevators and ports the CWB simply cannot exist. The evidence in this regard is undeniable. Even with considerable assets the Australian Wheat Board was swallowed up by its competitors in just a few short years. Without legislative government regulation in place to allow the CWB time to acquire assets, and build long-term business alliances, the soon-to-be CWB competitors, now waiting in the wings, licking their chops, will do the exact same thing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either naive or lying.

Robert Vosters Marquette, Man.

Political Science In The Pork Business

The Manitoba Pork Council is playing self-interested politics to again avoid being held responsible for the industry’s significant contributions to the polluting of Lake Winnipeg.

Calls for “made-in-Manitoba science-based decision-making” became the MPC mantra when thousands of people across rural Manitoba submitted scores of peer-reviewed scientific studies to municipal councils charged with the task of deciding on hog barn development.

The MPC, hog factory proponents and their vertically integrated corporate owners rejected this “external” and peer-reviewed science.

The industry, through the MPC, funded “made-in- Manitoba science,” primarily through the University of Manitoba. Don Flaten’s research appears frequently in this “science” and the debate over phosphorus.

A consistent apologist for the hog industry, Flaten was instrumental in recommending the terms of the phosphorus regulation that allows for soil test levels to exceed 823 pounds per acre. His own research submitted to the Clean Environment Commission in a report shows the average phosphorus removed by Manitoba crops to be a mere 10 pounds per acre per year.

You do the math.

Spring run-off and flooding carries excess phosphorus into Lake Winnipeg and other surface waters, causing harm. The higher the soil test level, the greater the mobility especially over 270 lbs. per acre. That’s accepted Manitoba science.

Independent, non-Manitoba scientists who provide evidence that the hog industry has and is causing significant harm must now be peer reviewed? Sure, but what about industry-funded Manitoba science?

Or, should we be satisfied with Manitoba Livestock Manure Management Initiative Inc. employee Brandy Street’s definition of peer review offered to the CEC on March 5, 2007 where she states, “what makes good science? Again, that comes down to peer-reviewed science. Is this something that your peers in the industry would accept as good practice?”

Ruth Pryzner Alexander, Man.

What About Railway Stranglehold?

It’s pretty sad to think that, with all the MPs he has in Western Canada, Stephen Harper can’t come up with somebody – anybody – who understands farming better than Gerry Ritz.

In the May 12 edition of the Manitoba Co-operator,Ritz says producers “might need to pay more for grain transportation in order to get better railway service.”

When was the last time Ritz actually shipped a bushel of wheat? If he had done so lately, he’d know that the railways are already charging far too much for the service they give us out of the 300 or so grain elevators that are left after decades of rail line abandonment and consolidation.

He’s all hot and bothered about the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly but he doesn’t seem to care when the railways use their stranglehold on the transportation system to rip us off to the tune of $6 for every tonne of grain we ship.

Instead of spending his time preaching the gospel according to CN and CP, Ritz needs to get to work on a new revenue cap and joint running rights. Until then, he’s just another railroad hack.

George Hickie Waldron, Sask.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected] (subject: To the editor)

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