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Winnipeg Free Press
Sunday September 5, 1999
Page A6


Doug Nairne

After being accused of scheming to sell off Manitoba Hydro, Premier Gary Filmon launched a counter-attack yesterday, saying he would beef up the utility's exports and use some of the money for northern infrastructure.

Recalling his own days as a water resources engineer being chased around by mosquitoes "as big as earthmovers," Filmon said Hydro will continue to play an important role in the provincial economy.

"Just as the oil industry revenues in the 1970s fuelled Alberta's growth and set the stage for its present prosperity... so too can Manitoba's electric and gas utility fuel our strength in the information age," he said.

Under a Conservative government, the power utility will be told to double its power exports over the next decade. The extra revenue would be split, with 75 per cent going toward keeping power rates low, and the other 25 per cent going toward northern infrastructure.

Filmon said that he is making the promise because he thinks more of the profits from Hydro should be reinvested in the north, where the majority of the ower is generated.

While the plan could eventually lead to about $7.5 million a year extra for northern roads " it costs about $1 million just to pave a mile of road in the north " and other infrastructure, even Filmon acknowledged yesterday's announcement had a lot more to do with sending a message that Hydro is not on the chopping block.

Until recently, Filmon had allowed himself some wiggle room when it came to privatization of the largest remaining Crown corporation. But when the NDP started making Hydro an election issue, the Tories firmed up their resolve. hey now say they will not sell Hydro under any circumstances.

"Manitoba Hydro will not be sold as long as I am premier," Filmon told a group of community leaders in Thompson yesterday.

NDP leader Gary Doer scoffed at the Tory announcement.

"We still do not trust him. We think the Tory plan is to sell Hydro just like they did with the (Manitoba Telephone System)."