Manitoba Wildlands Pre-Election Survey 2007

Response by the Manitoba NDP, April 27, 2007


Over our last two mandates, the NDP government has made energy conservation and renewable energy development top priorities. Under our government, Manitoba has moved from 9th place to 1st place in energy conservation, according to the Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance. In 1999, Manitoba had no wind farms. Today, one of the largest wind farms in Canada is up and running in St. Leon; and Manitoba Hydro is seeking proposals for an additional 300 MW of wind energy, enough to power 100,000 homes. Developed in partnership with Aboriginal communities, construction is underway on the 200 MW Wuskwatim hydro electric project, and we will build Conawapa – a project that was mothballed by the previous government. Both of these projects will be run-of-the-river operations designed to incorporate First Nations’ traditional knowledge to result in minimal environmental impacts.  Manitoba has also become a leader in geothermal heating and cooling systems, offering new and expanded incentives for installation. Manitoba is poised to implement its ethanol mandate this year, and construction is getting underway at a number of biodiesel plants. A re-elected NDP government will report regularly on the status of its energy initiatives and ensure that public licensing and assessment standards are respected for all new renewable energy projects. Environmental licenses will continue to have public comment periods as a central element.

Manitoba Hydro

We will ensure that Manitoba Hydro is accountable to its owners, the people of Manitoba, through a number of venues and processes set out in Manitoba law. In addition to asking Manitoba Hydro to appear at the Crown Corporations Committee of the Manitoba legislature that meets to review annual reports, we will ensure that Manitoba Hydro remains accountable under Manitoba law, including processes set out in legislation. Most importantly, we will ensure that MB Hydro is not privatized.

Our government was the first government to call Manitoba Hydro before the Clean Environment Commission to review the Wuskwatim generating and transmission projects – a public process that included 32 days of hearings throughout Manitoba and resulted in a 140 page expert report. As with Wuskwatim, the components of the Conawapa project will be submitted for public review by independent regulators.

A re-elected NDP government will work to continuously improve upon the current system of reviews and audits, including PUB and Legislative Committee reviews. Manitoba Hydro presently makes available significant amounts of information to the public, including technical reports, data and scientific findings. A re-elected NDP government will work with Manitoba Hydro to make even more information easily available and accessible. We will also ensure that Manitoba Hydro makes public its development intentions. In addition, our government will work with Manitoba Hydro to ensure that notifications for changes in water levels are made public as soon as possible.

Climate Change

Our government has been a leader in combating climate change. We are committed to public reporting on our actions on the environment, and have released several reports. If re-elected, we will soon be issuing an updated Climate Change Action Plan. In addition, our climate change legislation, which we have promised to introduce this year, will contain requirements for further reporting, specifically on our government’s actions to reduce green house gas emissions and the results of these actions.

Our climate change legislation will also enable the creation of a climate change registry in Manitoba. We recently took the first steps in creating that registry – the first of its kind in Canada – by signing a partnership agreement with the Canadian Climate Exchange (an office of the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange) and the Canadian Standards Association.

Our climate change legislation will also enshrine in law our commitment to meet our Kyoto target by 2012, and will contain provisions for reducing emissions from Manitoba’s largest emitting sectors. It will require Manitoba Hydro to reduce the use of coal and submit a plan to switch off-grid communities to renewable energy. It will require the capture of emissions from large landfills. It will create a vehicle advisory board to create a “Made In Manitoba” vehicle efficiency standard. It will also legislate the province’s Green Building and Green Fleet vehicle policies to further address government emissions.

We have taken action on renewable energy and energy conservation. The PowerSmart energy efficiency program has increased from zero participation in 1999 to more than 50,000 residential homes in 2006. The result has been energy savings equivalent to the annual power needs of The Pas, Steinbach, Lac du Bonnet, Morden, Souris, and Portage la Prairie combined, preventing 846 000 tonnes of green house gas emissions annually – the equivalent of 172,000 cars.

In 1999, there were no wind farms in Manitoba. Today, 99 megawatts of wind power are being produced from one of Canada’s single largest wind farms in southwest Manitoba, with an additional 1,000 megawatts of wind power planned over the next ten years.

Addressing climate change is a top priority for the NDP, and our actions over the past eight years have allowed us to become recognized as a leader on this important issue. Business Week Magazine has recognized Manitoba as the top region in the world on climate change action, and David Suzuki ranked Manitoba 2nd in Canada for our climate change plan. Following our announcement on Earth Day that under an NDP government Manitoba will be the first province to enshrine Kyoto targets in legislation, David Suzuki again offered praise.

We recognize that there is still much to be done in addressing the global threat of climate change. If re-elected, we will continue to show leadership on this very important issue.

Parks, Protected Areas, World Heritage Site

During the 1990s, while many areas were set aside as park “reserves,” few areas received permanent park protection. Since then, the Manitoba government has focused its efforts on permanently protecting our most beautiful natural areas and working with Aboriginal and First Nation communities to ensure that they can maintain important traditional practices. Since 1999, approximately 855,000 hectares of land have been permanently protected. Manitoba’s wildlife populations have also required special protection. Last spring we announced that Manitoba’s woodland caribou populations are being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act to strengthen steps already taken by the province to protect herds. During the last five years, more than $1.7 million in support has been spent on woodland caribou, more resources than on any other species of conservation concern in Manitoba.

A re-elected NDP government will maintain protection standards for all existing protected areas, and are proud to say that we have added to the existing system, including the South Atikaki, Caribou River, Pembina Valley, Trappist Monastery, Criddle/Vane Homestead, and Manigotagan River parks.

The Protected Networks Initiative contributes to long-term sustainable development by assembling a network of core protected areas designed to conserve ecosystems and maintain biodiversity across the province. We will continue to work towards completing protected areas networks, to represent all natural regions in Manitoba as quickly as possible.

In February of this year, four First Nations along with the governments of Manitoba and Ontario announced the establishment of the Pimachiowin-Aki non-profit corporation as part of the goal to achieve international recognition for lands east of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This precedent-setting agreement is part of our government’s commitment to communities on the East Side of Lake Winnipeg bringing both economic benefits to remote First Nation communities and ensuring the environmental protection of a tremendously valuable ecosystem. 

New developments must pass through review, consultation, and assessment process such as environmental licensing, consultations with affected Aboriginal communities, etc. prior to a new license being issued. The protection of environmentally or culturally significant areas not already protected will be addressed as a part of this process.

We have made considerable progress in the area of protected areas in our forest regions and discussions with forestry license holders are ongoing. The establishment of protected areas remains a priority and we will continue to work at completing protected areas networks in forestry license areas.

Public Access to Information and Consultations

A re-elected NDP government will continue to support open and transparent access to information, subject to the legitimate constraints imposed by legislation. We have already made significant progress in providing improved access to information through the government web site, including the release of a number of reports, such as “Green and Growing: Building a Green and Prosperous Future for Manitoba Families,” “Realizing Opportunities: Emissions Trading in Manitoba,” “Kyoto and Beyond: A Plan of Action” and “Provincial Sustainability Report for Manitoba (2005).” We will continue to work toward making information more accessible, focusing on areas with the most impact for the general public. We are proud of our already established record on making our maps available to the public free of charge. Our government has also already acted to make the government phone directory available online. Most government offices and employees can be found in the online phone book at

Departments are continually weighing their allocation of staff resources against their mandated responsibilities to ensure that they are able to provide the best value to the public. Under Gary Doer and the NDP, Manitoba has achieved an impressive record of responding to access to information requests. In 2005, the results of a Canadian Newspaper Association national survey to determine how free and accessible government information really is declared Manitoba was 2nd best with a disclosure rate of 88%.

There are Public Registry materials online now, but more can be done. Part of the issue is that materials may not be submitted in electronic form, and the time and cost of converting them can be substantial. We will look at ways to speed up the transition to electronic filing, which will make it possible to provide better access to these types of information.

Environmental Licenses

The NDP government acknowledges the public desire for a transparent environmental licensing process. We support an effective method of public involvement in environmental decision making.

We maintain online records of environmental licences under The Environment Act and we are encouraging electronic submissions to simplify this process. Public comments about Environmental Impact Statements are also made available online.

Fulfilling a commitment to appoint commission members who possess scientific and technical expertise, and building nutrient management into environmental licensing for municipal sewage treatment licenses are examples of steps we have taken to strengthen the environmental licensing process. We will continue to strive to measure and report on the impact of projects that go before the CEC.


The NDP government has already taken steps to protect all of the waterways in the province including the creation of the very first Department of Water Stewardship in Canada; passing the first-of-its kind Water Protection Act; and investing more than $130 million toward water-quality projects in Manitoba. We have introduced the Drinking Water Safety Act, brought in a subsidy for well water tests (after they were privatised by the Tories when they were in government) and opened the Office of Drinking Water. Phase Three of the Water Protection Plan introduced some of the strongest regulations in North America for restricting phosphorus. Currently boil water orders can be obtained from the Office of Drinking Water. A re-elected NDP government will work to ensure that these are posted on-line for easier public access.

As you are aware, the distribution of this questionnaire coincides with the CEC hearings into the hog industry in Manitoba. A re-elected NDP government will ensure that protecting water remains one of our top priorities.

When our government released the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board’s final report, we were proud to announce that we had already initiated action on 84% of the recommendations to fix a problem that was decades in the making. We accepted in principle all 135 recommendations in the report and announced immediate next steps on priority areas.

Land Use Planning

We support and continue to work with East Side communities to fulfill the principles of the East Side Planning Initiative (now referred to as the Wabanong Nakaygum Okimawin). This Spring, we signed a landmark government-to-government Accord with First Nations on the East Side of Lake Winnipeg to reinforce the foundation for the most comprehensive traditional land-use planning in this country. We also announced a $2.5 million commitment for traditional land use plans for the East Side of Lake Winnipeg. This five-year agreement between Manitoba and the WNO Council of Chiefs will help to ensure the culture and history of Aboriginal Peoples on the east side of Lake Winnipeg is protected as we continue to work together to develop a broad-are plan for the area. This funding will assist First Nations and Aboriginal People with mapping burial and other traditional sites, as well as planning how to best use the lands and resources within their territories.


Environment and Government

We have strong standards around water protection, conservation and species standards and will continue to enhance these.

We currently post an assortment of information on the government website at Information regarding changes in public policy, appropriate press releases, reports, current public policies regarding lands and waters are among those available via this government’s website.

When we announced in November 2006 that the province’s water plan was being referred to the CEC for public input and review, we committed to strengthen fines and inspections by adding new staffing resources. Within the last year, we have committed to new positions in areas such as Environmental Assessment, Contaminated Sites Program, Drainage Licensing and Enforcement, Conservation Districts Program, the Environmental Livestock Program, Water Licensing, Drinking Water Initiative.

Clean Environment Commission/Public Utilities Board

We are always open to suggestions from the Clean Environment Commission and the Public Utilities Board on ways to improve their process. As they are independent bodies, we feel it is important to respect their autonomy, while at the same time encouraging the most transparent and accountable course of action in relation to public expectations and needs.

In contrast, the Tories ignored the public outcry for public hearings into Maple Leaf Plant when it was first built. During the 1990’s, the Tories failed to call CEC hearings several times on major projects and no intervenor funding was ever approved for a solely provincial project.