Energy hearings fire up Saskatchewan politicians

SASKATCHEWAN - Provincial politicians are charged up over hearings to examine Saskatchewan's future energy needs.

A committee of Saskatchewan's legislature began examining the issue, but even before the first presentation could be heard, government and opposition members of the legislature were zapping each other with criticism.

NDP critics say the committee should hold more meetings.

"We want to see as much information presented to the Saskatchewan public as possible," Buckley Belanger, the NDP MLA for Athabasca said.

"What is wrong with that?"

Dan D'Autremont, a committee member from the government side of the legislature, countered that the NDP are in no position to criticize the process, considering that party's track record when it was in power.

"They had no hearings whatsoever in the entire 16 years that they were in government," D'Autremont said. "Now all of a sudden since we've opened up the process to hearings, we're 'not having enough hearings'."

The squabbling did not change the official schedule for hearings, which has set dates for October 6 to 19 in Regina, Saskatoon and La Ronge. Another set of hearings are set for January 18 to 29, 2010, in Lloydminster, Prince Albert, Yorkton, Estevan as well as Regina and Saskatoon.

The first presentation came from the provincially owned electric utility SaskPower.

Pat Youzwa, the president of the Crown corporation, told committee members that electric rates could rise eight per cent per year, for the next ten years, according to one scenario.

"It's a hypothetical view of what a 10 year picture might look like and, from that, what a rate increase may be," Youzwa said.

The price to customers would also be affected by what sources are used to generate power.

Currently, SaskPower uses coal to produce 52 per cent of its electricity. The rest comes from natural gas, hydro and wind.



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