Thursday, 6 June 2013


Graham Lane is not a known name in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Perhaps, he could be. 

He is well known in Manitoba.  Like David Vardy, he has served in a multitude of roles in that and several other Provinces, including roles as Chairman of the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba and  Vice-President of the University of Winnipeg.  A retired Chartered Accountant, his career has spanned fifty years and his CV suggests he has enjoyed more public sector policy challenges than one individual and one career ought to face.  

He recently delivered a Paper to “Frontier Centre for Public Policy”, a private think tank.   His Paper was entitled "Damn-Nation, Rolling the Dice on Manitoba's Future".
His expertise, on matters dealing with hydro electricity, must be acknowledged.  Though his remarks are directed towards Manitoba Hydro and the Government of Manitoba, much of what he has to say could be applied to Nalcor and how that Crown Agency has emerged as the greatest single threat to the financial stability of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Lane addresses the need for “independent expert review” of Manitoba Hydro (MH), its consistently poor estimates and forecasting, its poor debt to equity ratio as compared to private utilities, its reporting “opaqueness” and the fact that cheaper options are available to meet that Province’s electricity needs. He speaks of “plans that were conceived before the global credit crises, the recession….shale gas production…and America’s move for energy security”.  

Graham Lane addresses the matter of 'risk', especially to the rate payers, not just from understated budgets for capital expenditures but also that associated with the potential for subsidy to Manitoba Hydro's export power contractual commitments.  He speaks to poor management and poor governance.

The Government of Manitoba does not enjoy a stellar record of successful hydro development.  What Graham Lane refers to as the “WUSKWATIM DISASTER” contains many lessons for Muskrat Falls.

It might do well to remember that it was Manitoba Hydro International (MHI), an arm of Manitoba Hydro, whom Nalcor and the NL Government employed as its “Consultant”.  When you have read Graham Lane’s Presentation, likely you will ask yourself if MHI really was the most expert and most independent advice we could have gotten.

It seems Manitoba Hydro has built up a substantial expertise for ‘boondoggles’ that contribute to their empire building mission.

Still, don’t blame Manitoba Hydro.  We elect Government’s to protect the public interest, to control overly ambitious bureaucrats and to kill policies which expose us to more risk than is needed or our economic heft affords.

Most citizens rightly do not want to become public policy experts in the field of electricity.  But, whether its electricity, fisheries, mining or in some other field, citizens have an obligation to keep an eye on what their government is up to, especially when its decisions are risk laden to a degree in excess of what is prudent for a small society, like ours.  
Like most public policy issues, it is always a good idea to get the views of others experts.  Graham Lane will most certainly leave you something to think about.  "Damn-Nation, Rolling The Dice on Manitoba's Future"