Liberals vow to fight Bill 50

The Alberta Liberals will launch a power play to try to ice a government plan to spend billions upgrading electrical lines in the province without public hearings.

EDMONTON — The Alberta Liberals will launch a power play to try to ice a government plan to spend billions upgrading electrical lines in the province without public hearings.

Liberal Leader David Swann says the administration of Premier Ed Stelmach “must not be allowed to bulldoze opposition to their plans.”

He says his part will launch their fight when the legislature resumes sitting Oct. 26.

Controversy is dogging provincial plans to pass Bill 50 that would jump-start an ambitious project to spend up to $20 billion building four major power lines in Alberta.

But the Liberals say the province must hold public hearings because consumers, not power companies, will pay the entire upgrade tab.

Critics say it could double or triple the cost of a monthly bill while Tories say it will add a mere $8 a month to a residential bill.

Commercial users will pay 85 per cent of the upgrading project, while residents pay the other 15 per cent, the province has indicated.

Liberal finance critic Hugh MacDonald said it’s the latest in an ongoing gouge of power consumers in Alberta.

“Prior to deregulation (in the mid-1990s) Albertans had some of the lowest-priced electricity in North America to now we’re among the highest rates,” said MacDonald.

Energy ministry spokesman Jerry Bellikka said the public has already been extensively consulted when a so-called needs hearing was held in 2003 about the four new lines.

“As well, this summer we had open houses on the issue in 21 different communities in Alberta,” Bellikka said.