There’s nothing like an old-fashioned crisis to rally the troops, especially if the crisis means that people are going to have to pay more for something. As we explained in our last post, Manitoba Hydro does not have a debt problem and, the fear of rate increases is a red herring. We saw how the projected increase in revenues could potentially be used to offset rate increases, especially for low-income Manitobans.

So if we’ve known about these investments for years, the equity to debt ratio is reasonable and we have rate increases covered, why are some suddenly waving red flags and calling wolf? We can answer that question with one word: privatization.

It might seem hard to believe given how adamant the Conservatives have been that they would not privatize Manitoba Hydro. But don’t be fooled; had they admitted they wanted to privatize, they wouldn’t have been elected. So they’re holding their cards very close to their chest. But we’ve seen this game strategy before – it’s one former Conservative Premier Filmon used with great skill when his government privatized MTS.

Here’s how the strategy works, in ten easy to follow steps.

  1. Swear you have no intention to privatize _______________ (fill in the blank).
  2. Start reporting on _______________ (fill in the blank) in a negative way and ignore any evidence to the contrary.
  3. Swear you have no intention to privatize _____________ (fill in the blank).
  4. Look for allies to support your case about how things are out of control. They will inevitably come from the business community. If you’re lucky you’ll have a compliant media that is so awestruck with your business acumen and/or so uninterested in the public good that it uncritically reports everything you say.
  5. Pack the board with business types and those positioned to provide a means to start privatizing by stealth. Board Chair Sanford Riley is also CEO and President of Richardson Financial Group, so should a need ever arise for private finance, we know where to go. He’s also on more corporate boards than we can list here, including the previously privatized MTS which Bell Canada currently is trying to buy under bogus pretences (supported by Mr. Pallister). And just in case you need an ideological shot in the arm, Mr. Riley sits on the board of the Fraser Institute, Canada’s preeminent free enterprise cheerleader.
  6. Swear you have no intention to privatize _______________ (fill in the blank).
  7. Start carving off bits and bobs to private corporations. A new twist on that move is to sell up to 49% of shares to private investors and claim that the corporation is still publicly owned and still puts the public good ahead of private profit. Saskatchewan is musing about such a move.
  8. Slowly start changing the way you talk about how to fix “the crisis”.
  9. Continue the media campaign explaining what deplorable shape _____________ (fill in the blank) is in.
  10. Privatize.

It might take more than one election cycle to implement all steps, but once you privatize, you will be able to increase rates far more than you would ever have been able to if ________________ (fill in the blank) had been kept public. You and your friends will be able to profit greatly from the rate increases because you will have been able to buy up stock in the new company. With any luck you’ll profit even more if you’re able to sell the company down the road (think MTS).

So readers, now that we think about it – maybe we really do need to panic. After all, we’re already at number five out of the ten steps.

We’ll keep you posted as events occur.