by Joe Anglin
On January 21st I attended my first AltaLink open house session for the proposed Heartland Transmission Project 500 kV transmission line. The open house was held at the Woodvale facility & golf clubhouse in Edmonton, and it appeared to be attracting some curious residents.
As I made my way around the various displays, I was eventually asked for my opinion by a very nice lady representing AltaLink. Since I have never been guilty of withholding my opinion, I replied I didn’t support the new legislation that eliminated the necessity for a public hearing to determine if these transmission lines were in fact needed. Before I could finish making my comments I was interrupted by an individual who seemed agitated that I inferred that the Minister of Energy could designate a project by a stroke of a pen. I quickly conceded to his point that the decision was in fact made by cabinet, not just the minister. Although from my perspective given the dictatorial perception of the cabinet, and that fact that one of its newest members recently publically announced that there would be no transmission lines connected up to any nuclear power plant in Peace River; I didn’t find any comfort differentiating between the cabinet and any single unqualified influential minister.
Strangely enough, this person wanted to make a public point of my misstatement, which I had already conceded to, yet he proceeded to illuminate my misstatement. Not being sure what this person was hoping to accomplish, I asked him to identify himself. He refused, and continued to publicly berate me for crediting the minister and not the cabinet. When I finally had enough, I corrected him and told him that on a very technical level we were both wrong. The legislation specifically states only the Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate a project, but I still failed to see the point of the discussion.
I introduced myself and asked this person three separate times to identify himself, and he refused all three times. When I pressed him, he would only say he was an interested stakeholder. By this time a small crowd had gathered around. This individual now blurted out that Alberta was a net importer of electricity. I challenged him on whether or not being a net importer of electricity was good or bad, and he admitted there was nothing wrong with being a net importer, particularly since Alberta had more than enough generation to meet its own needs.
The conversation was intriguing me. Clearly this individual had an agenda, and I was beginning to make him uncomfortable. When I told him it made no economic sense for Capital Power to build a new electric generator for $250 million in Edmonton, if the public had to pay roughly $3 billion to build transmission lines to get the power from Edmonton to Calgary. I went on to say that a strategically located generator in Calgary or Red Deer would all but eliminate the need to build transmission lines between Calgary and Edmonton.
I drew his attention to the fact that Enmax has reassured us that Calgary was fairly self-sufficient and didn’t require additional generation from Edmonton. After a few negative remarks about Enmax, and its CEO Gary Holden, he countered that it was important for Alberta to build a transmission system that could support the export and import of electricity at the same time. I shook my head in disbelief as the expression on his face confirmed he had just realized that he was not making any sense. I told him I suppose we could spend billions so Alberta could export and import electricity at the same time, but that made just about as much sense as spending billions trying to suck and blow, at the same time, through a straw in a glass of milk.
About this time this person had enough of me and walked away to mingle in the crowd. I watched him for a while as he continued to interject in various conversations taking place around the room. Unannounced and uninvited this individual interjected and manipulated himself into random conversations, always an advocate for the construction of the transmission lines. He was quick to aggressively confront anyone who might question the need for these expenditures.
The person, to whom I am speaking of, has now been identified as Tim Grant, and he is the Assistant Deputy Minister for electricity at Alberta Energy. Why the Assistant Deputy Minister for electricity at Alberta Energy refused to identify himself is a mystery – specifically when a member of the public asked? Why did he falsely claimed to be just a stakeholder, when in fact he is a high profile public official representing the government? What did he hope to accomplish by bring up the topic of export, when the Minister of Energy clearly denies any correlation between transmission lines and the need to export? Why did he speak so negatively of Enmax in public and particularly its CEO Gary Holden? Why did he continue to covertly mingle amongst the landowners, as if someone like me would not investigate his identity?
The irony is that the more things try to change, the more they stay the same. While industry desperately tries to improve the consultation process, it is less than comforting to know that the Alberta Government hasn’t changed and still prefers to conduct covert operations against landowners. One only has to wonder what Tim Grant hoped to accomplish by engaging in such risky covert measures. Are we truly that dangerous?
I don’t know if the Alberta Government has hired private investigators (spies) to assist Tim Grant in his undercover covert operations, but I do know that no one in the government was ever held accountable for hiring private investigators to spy on landowners back in 2007. It appears at the moment the Alberta Government still conducts undercover covert operations, but it makes no sense for a senior government official to be engaging in such an activity.
Is the budget so tight that Alberta Energy is unable to contract for private investigators? Now these would be budget cuts I could support!
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