Minister defends decision to cut Power Smart advertising spending

Minister defends decision to cut Power Smart advertising spending

Putting Power Smart advertising on pause as it's moved to a new Crown corporation was just efficient, Manitoba's Crown Services minister said Monday. 

Cliff Cullen said Hydro's energy efficiency programs are transitioning to Efficiency Manitoba, which he expects to be up and running by the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year.

"There's quite a few opportunities for us to continue to get the message out about the existing programs but we just thought it was prudent not to spend additional money on a program that's on the way out," said Cullen.

A CBC News report revealed that Hydro president and CEO Kelvin Shepherd warned that cutting advertising could mean the end for two programs and cause at least one partner company to move to Alberta.

NDP MLA Rob Altemeyer raised the issue in the Legislature during question period Monday. He questioned why the government is cutting funding to educate Manitobans about ways to cut their utility bills at a time when they are facing rising heating and electricity costs.

"If the government wants to help Manitobans, then maintaining existing successful Power Smart programs might be a good thing to do," said Altemeyer.

Cullen said the Power Smart program is owned by B.C. Hydro and it is coming to an end.

"We're bringing forward a new program. It's been recommended by the Public Utilities Board. It's been recommended by energy consultants across the province. Other provinces such as Alberta are signed on to efficiency-type programs. This is the way to go. This will reduce Manitoba's power bills," he said during question period.

Instead of paid advertising, Cullen said the government will use direct mail, bill inserts through Hydro, social media, community events, and electronic newsletters.

Altemeyer also asked if the government is cutting Power Smart as part of a larger mandated cut to Manitoba Crown corporations.

"The problem is this government's mangled managing of the transition from one to the other. And yet a more sinister ploy could be at work here," he said.

Cullen said it will be up to the new board of Efficiency Manitoba, expected to be in place within the next couple of months, to decide how they want to deal with existing contractors.

"Our view is it will probably be an open competition to provide some of those services to Manitobans," he said, adding there will be a review of existing programs and consultations with Manitobans and key stakeholders.