Ross response to Blaikie info on Bipole III is unacceptable

Posted on August 5th, 2011

By Errol Black, Susanne McCrea

Source: Brandon Sun

In recent weeks, the Brandon Sun has published a number of pieces calling for Manitoba Hydro and the Manitoba government to build the proposed Bipole III transmission line on the east side of Lake Winnipeg rather than the west side.

A letter to the editor on July 8, 2011, from Garland Laliberte and Karen Friesen (“Weighing The Costs Of Bipole III”) argued that the cost of the east side route would be $1 billion less than the west-side route. A letter of rebuttal to Laliberte and Friesen, which argued that their estimate of the difference in costs was inaccurate and exaggerated, apparently fell through the cracks.

This was followed on July 9 by an article written by Sun columnist Deveryn Ross titled, “Deveryn’s Decision — UNESCO Has Never Heard Of Bipole Projects.” The gist of Ross’ column is that he didn’t understand the long, complicated process required to obtain a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for a site nominated by a national government, in this case, the federal government in Ottawa.

That’s fine. However, once he had puzzled out how the process worked, he could have outlined the remaining steps in the process for the benefit of Sun readers by pointing out that the process begins with the preparation of a nomination document for submission to Parks Canada.

The people involved with The Pimachiowin Aki World Heritage Project (the project seeking heritage site designation for the boreal forest east of Lake Winnipeg) are now finalizing the nomination document. Parks Canada will review the applications over the coming months and formally submit Canada’s nominations to UNESCO in February 2012.

The UNESCO review and approval process takes roughly 13 months, which means that a decision on the boreal forest nomination should be forthcoming in early 2013. (This information is available at heartoftheboreal.ca.)

But he didn’t do this. Instead he launched into a tirade against the government, blaming the premier and cabinet ministers for his ignorance and repeating hearsay from other sources previously refuted in other publications.

A letter by Conservation Minister Bill Blaikie addressing some of the issues raised by Ross (“Tories Biggest Threat To UNESCO Bid”), was published in the Sun on July 15. In particular, Blaikie attempted to provide Ross with information that would help him better understand the process involved in obtaining UNESCO designation. As part of his explanation, Blaikie noted that: “Protecting 40,000 square kilometres of boreal forest, an area roughly the size of Denmark, takes time and effort. This has the potential to be the largest protected area of boreal shield in North America, but it needs to be done right if it’s going to be successful.”

You’d think that Ross would be grateful to Blaikie for providing him with the appropriate information on the process involved in obtaining UNESCO designation.

However, in his column of July 25 (“Deveryn’s Decision — Serious Accusations Must Be Backed Up With Facts”) Ross launches into a rant accusing Blaikie of misrepresenting his views: “Everything I wrote in my July column was the truth, based upon hours of research, including information obtained from credible sources as far away as Paris … If you’re going to accuse me of misinforming, misleading and/or lying to readers of this newspaper, a vague accusation isn’t good enough. Bring facts. It’s what I do on this page every Saturday.”

This is not what we have a right to expect from a newspaper columnist. It seems to us that if we want to find facts and solid analysis on the Bipole III debate and the programs of Manitoba Hydro, we would be well advised to look beyond the columns of Mr. Ross.