The federal government is giving the green light to a massive transmission line project that will see Manitoba hydroelectricity sent south of the border, following months of discussions between Ottawa and the Manitoba government.
Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s minister of natural resources, said Friday that the $453-million Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project has been approved.
“Canadians understand that a clean, modern and resilient electricity network helps fight climate change and transition to a lower carbon economy,” Sohi said in a news release.
“The Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project achieves these goals while enhancing the competitiveness of our electricity market and creating good, middle-class jobs.”
The transmission line will link generating stations in northern Manitoba through the Bipole III transmission line and across the U.S. border. It is expected to increase Manitoba’s electricity capacity to 3,185 megawatts, up from 2,300 megawatts.
The move comes after the National Energy Board recommended approving the proposal. The NEB put 28 conditions on the project; the federal government says five of them must be amended to accommodate concerns raised by Indigenous groups.
At least 20 per cent of construction contracts have to involve purchases from Indigenous suppliers, contracts with Indigenous subcontractors and the employment and training of Indigenous workers, the federal government said.
The project has been point of tension between the federal and provincial government, in part because of potential impacts on Indigenous communities in the region.
The federal government extended the deadline for approving the project, citing a need for more time to review deals made with the Manitoba Metis Federation that were quashed by the current Progressive Conservative government under Premier Brian Pallister.
Manitoba Hydro previously agreed to a $67.5-million deal with the MMF that was supposed to garner support for future hydroelectricity projects. Pallister cancelled the deal and characterized it as “persuasion money” at the time.
A few months later, the Pallister government scrapped a $20-million deal called Turning the Page that had been struck by the province, Hydro and the MMF. That agreement included terms that would see $20 million transferred to the MMF over 20 years in return for support for Hydro activities, including the Bipole III transmission line and the Keeyask generation project.
The MMF sought an injunction to block the province from turfing the deal but a court rejected the request last fall.
The MMF also filed for a judicial review last summer, hoping the courts would overturn the province’s decision to quash the $67.5-million payment.
Manitoba approved an environmental licence for the project in April. It called on the Trudeau government to approve the project or risk construction delays it said would cost taxpayers in the province $200 million a year in penalties, damages and other costs.