Controversial Bill 50 passes final reading

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Bill 50, the contentious piece of legislation that would remove the requirement for public hearings on new power lines, passed third and final reading at the Alberta legislature.

"We had some pieces of critical infrastructure and we wanted an opportunity here to approve the need only, to approve the need that has been demonstrated. That's all that's happened here," said Energy Minister Mel Knight.

The government contended that Bill 50 was necessary to facilitate the quick construction of billions of dollars worth of power lines needed to upgrade the province's electricity grid.

It argued the lines were similar to other necessary pieces of infrastructure such as roads and hospitals, which don't need public hearings if the work is deemed to be critical.

However, members of the public, including rural landowners, as well as power company Enmax, have strongly opposed the bill.

Opposition members question whether the province has overstated the need for the lines. "We needed a competitive and efficient power line, not one that's overbuilt, overpriced," said Wildrose Alliance MLA Paul Hinman. "It's not in the benefit of the Alberta Advantage."

Alberta's Progressive Conservative government will end up paying a political price for the bill, NDP Leader Brian Mason said, because people's electricity bills will go up.

"I think people are going to be reminded of this every month when they get their power bill," Mason said. "It's almost like there's going to be a rider — PC (Progressive Conservative) arrogance, PC extravagance — on everybody's power bill every month."

Knight has said new lines, especially two between Calgary and Edmonton, are critical to avoid widespread electricity outages during heavy demand.


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