Energy ministers from the three prairie provinces held their annual conflab a few days ago, and as usual, nothing much happened. It’s an unfortunate part of the way this country is structured, and the result are huge missed opportunities, especially for Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
For decades, there have been ‘daydreams’ about developing an east-west power grid, but we’re not much closer to it now than we were twenty years ago.
It’s your basic ‘no brainer’, a phrase that all too often describes the people who are involved. Manitoba has tons of surplus electricity, all of which is clean renewable hydro power, and there’s a whole bunch more that could be developed in the north. Right now, Manitoba Hydro is virtually giving that surplus away to the Americans at a loss, because the economics of energy in North America are all screwed up, and that’s not likely to change. Saskatchewan is still burning tons of dirty coal, and they’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on dumb science called carbon capture, in an effort to somehow magically become green.
The sensible solution would be to build transmission capacity from east to west. That would allow Alberta, as well as Saskatchewan, to stop burning coal, etc. As sensible as it sounds, don’t wait for it happen. One of the people to blame is Viscount Richard Bedford Bennett. Who? He was the Canadian Conservative leader who had the misfortune to become Prime Minister as the world sank into the Great Depression.
Lord Bennett’s government, for reasons that barely made sense in 1931, decided to change the constitution, transferring control over natural resources to the provinces. Back then, oil was worth less than a dollar a barrel, and it seemed unlikely that it would ever amount to much more than that.
History has shown that once the provinces get control of anything from Ottawa, they’re not about to give it up. I’m entirely confident that the Leafs will win the Stanley Cup, and the Blue Bombers will finally bring home that other battered trophy, before we ever see an east-west power grid.
I’m Roger Currie