CUPE 998 welcomes the appointment of five additional Manitoba Hydro Electric Board (MHEB) members. We acknowledge the broad range of skills and abilities required to run Manitoba’s public utility effectively and are encouraged by the addition of board members with specific skillsets and experience. We expect these additions will help existing board members in carrying out their extensive responsibilities but the real test will be in how government responds to the new Board.
A few weeks ago we learned that newly appointed Manitoba Hydro Electric Board Chair, Marina James, requested additional board appointments from government after assessing and identifying gaps in skillsets of existing board members. The Board and Chair should be applauded for conducting such an honest and introspective evaluation and for putting the issue to government decision-makers on April 17, 2018, only scant weeks after being appointed to the position following the resignation of the former MHEB.
The Board’s request for support was not made public at the time but was uncovered through an access to information request by the NDP and made public on June 14, 2018. Soon after this, on June 27, the Conservative government appointed five new board members to address the gaps identified by the incoming Board. We trust the MHEB will continue to put the interests of Manitoba Hydro and Manitobans first. To us this means keeping Manitoba Hydro public so the social and economic benefits derived from our abundant resources and provincial utility are enjoyed by all Manitobans and are not handed over to private, profit-seeking entities. We also hope the current government will engage with and listen to the new Board and avoid creating another resignation situation.
After years of waiting PowerSmart workers now know a little more about their future…or at least who their future bosses will be if they are moved to the new Efficiency Manitoba Crown corporation.
CUPE 998 congratulates the new Board of Directors on their appointments and looks forward to working with them on a transition plan which will address our members’ concerns, protect their careers and preserve the energy savings programs Hydro customers have come to know, use and depend on. Our intentions are described in this CUPE news release issued on May 18, 2018; we will continue to advocate for our members and hope the new board is more willing to talk than the current government.
The new Efficiency Manitoba Board was announced in a Government of Manitoba press release issued on May 17, 2018 that included their assertion that Manitobans know Manitoba Hydro should not be promoting energy savings and selling power at the same time. A troubling statement considering that Manitoba Hydro-led efficiency programs have been widely successful to date and 2017 polling showed 78% Manitobans wanted PowerSmart to stay with Manitoba Hydro. In addition, engaging in and promoting efficiency in the end-use of power is part of Manitoba Hydro’s legal mandate under the Manitoba Hydro Act. PowerSmart workers and programs have consistently delivered on the energy savings mandate for over 25 years. For proof just look to the many industry awards recognizing the public utility’s efforts; Manitoba Hydro just won the 2018 ENERGY STAR for Products – Promotional Campaign of the Year award, making this their 8th ENERGY STAR award.
Despite all of this, affected workers continue to face uncertainty in their careers and personal lives due to this ill-conceived and poorly managed change. Neither CUPE 998 nor our members were informed or consulted as operational details and transition plans were, and continue to be, developed. A collaborative approach would seek the valuable input of workers and keep them informed.
On behalf of all Manitobans we hope this good work will continue and the new Crown agency will be able to deliver on the government’s promises of being leaner, less expensive and more effective than the current PowerSmart programs but that remains to be seen and we remain to be convinced.
Royal assent has been granted to the government’s plan of carving out of Manitoba Hydro’s energy efficiency program. This is despite countless industry experts having made submissions and presentations to the Minister of Crown Services on why PowerSmart should remain part of Hydro. That’s left our members wondering why the government, the PUB, and the Lieutenant Governor aren’t listening.
In short, the lead up to the new announcement on the 24th of January was much ado about nothing. This announcement was a chance for the government to announce something substantial, such as a new CEO, a new structure, or regulations regarding the new Crown Corporation. In a perfect world, the announcement could have even been to let the citizens of Manitoba know that instead of creating a new entity, real efficiency would be found by keeping Demand Side Management (DSM – PowerSmart) where it is and spending the startup capital on other, much needed projects.
Our members in DSM have been waiting for answers about their future for well over a year. We already know Manitoba Hydro currently has an excellent, award-winning program that has deep roots in the community as well as direct access to Hydro information to help Manitobans find energy savings; it’s hard to believe this new Crown will be able to offer anything new that PowerSmart isn’t already doing.
We are calling on Manitoba Hydro and Efficiency Manitoba to ensure that PowerSmart employees are fairly transitioned into the new Crown. PowerSmart employees have the experience, the networks, and the know-how to help Manitobans save energy. We hope the government will keep these workers doing what they do best.
We also hope the government will soon make a clear case for the requirement for creating this new entity for energy efficiency, along with the details on exactly how the Crown will be staffed, financed, and what programs will be delivered. Until then, our members will continue to provide the fantastic PowerSmart services that they have, all while operating in the dark.
The Partnership to Defend Public Services filed evidence in the Court of Queen’s Bench supporting its request for an injunction against the Public Services Sustainability Act.
Read the full press release here.