Progress destroying Northern Manitoba’s beautiful wilderness

To the Editor:

I am writing to thank the residents of Thompson for the many years they have filled with wonderful memories and good times with friends. My love of Thompson started 20-plus years ago when my grandfather introduced me to Cory Grant, the owner of All Terrain Bear Hunts. I was just 12 years old when my grandfather Bill Metcalfe brought me to Thompson for the first time and I was hooked. The vast spruce forest dotted by thousands of lakes fascinated my young mind, not to mention that each piece of water held more fish than even the most eager 12-year-old could handle. Over the years, I have made several friends in Thompson and have frequented many local businesses. My trip to Thompson would not be complete without a stop at Crazy Pete’s to see him and his brother Ray. A Steve’s Special from Santa Maria Pizza, which in all my world travels I have not found a better pizza, and of course a Wimpy burger and a box of fries from Popeye’s. We have stayed at the Meridian Hotel so many times the very pleasant girls there know me and my grandfather by our first names. I left a book in my room one year and the next year when I returned, it was waiting for me on my pillow; it was with great sadness that I learned about Marge’s passing. Marge’s cooking kept us fat and happy on many a trip to Thompson. I have spent a lot of time over the years getting to know Thompsons residents and have truly come to love the uniqueness Thompson has to offer. Each visit to Thompson I try to make a point to see something unique Thompson has to offer like a trip to Paint Lake Provincial Park to spend the day taking in the vast beauty of the area and fishing. One year I had an extra few days in Thompson, which started with an invite to the Nickel Days social by some of my friends, which was to say the least, quite an experience. The next day after having a morning coffee at Timmy’s we all headed to Pisew Falls for the day. Pisew was very cool for me to see since in Alabama the closest thing we have to a waterfall is the spillway of a dam. It is the little things like the social and morning coffees at Timmy’s that make me feel like family to many Thompson residents. 

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It was during one of these morning coffees on my last trip that I bumped into a man from Split Lake whom I had met a few times before. He sat down, one thing led to another, and we began discussing the Keeyask dam project. Specifically, we talked about how the construction had ruined so much of his as well as several others’ trap lines, directly taking money right out of his pocket, and his overall disgust with the entire Keeyask project. In the spring of 2006 my grandfather asked that I take over planning customer retreats as well as employee reward trips for his commercial HVAC company. I have been bringing clients from the U.S. to Thompson ever since, so they too can experience what I felt that first cool spring day when a wide-eyed 12-year-old stepped off a plane and into the Great White North. On my last few trips to Thompson, I have seen the beauty of the north country carved up by Manitoba Hydro. My disgust with what is going on in Thompson started several years ago with the beginning of the Keeyask dam project. The heavy construction activity that it stirred up along Provincial Road 280 made it nearly impossible to enjoy the peace and quiet that drew me back to Thompson so many times. Furthermore, the amount of game I was accustomed to seeing has dramatically decreased since the start of the Keeyask project. The Keeyask project made me do something I hated to do and that was move our annual trip to a different location in Saskatchewan. 

After I didn’t return to Thompson for three years, Cory Grant invited me back to Thompson on a no-cost trip to his outpost camp on Partridge Crop Lake, assuring me that this area would be free of heavy construction activity. While this area was free of the hustle and bustle of heavy trucks it was far from untouched by the buzz saws of Hydro. The first day as we travelled from Thompson to Partridge Crop we almost could not reach the camp because one of Manitoba Hydro’s semis was stuck in the mud caused by a heavy rain the day before. The semi was stretched across the whole road making it nearly impassable; we had to risk getting Cory’s truck stuck and drive into the soft mud in the ditch alongside the semi. The Bipole III power line was cut right through the heart of what amounts to be Cory’s office. As much as the Bipole III killed the majesty of the wilderness, it was the immense amount of garbage left behind by the construction crews that left me with a sick feeling in my stomach. 

The fact that Manitoba Hydro has acted so carelessly with the Bipole III project cannot be ignored any longer. When I returned from my trip a few weeks ago I began doing some research into the Bipole III project and what I found was sickening. I was blown away at the gross mismanagement of funds specifically why a company would choose to take a longer, harder, and worst of all more expensive route. The further I looked into the Bipole III the worse it got. Hydro is going to be raising its rate a staggering four per cent every year for the next four years to help offset the massive amount of money it has poured into the Bipole III and Keeyask dam projects. The power generated by the Keeyask dam will not even be providing Manitobans with clean renewable energy but rather will be routed all the way from Keeyask to Winnipeg and from Winnipeg, it will be sold down the line to the U.S. 

The way Hydro has handled these two projects have shown me two things. They do not care about the people they service and they do not care about the people their projects affect. It saddens me to see such a great city like Thompson and its surrounding beauty chewed up and spit out by big industry. Over the last 20 years I have come to love the City of Thompson and have truly enjoyed watching it grow into the city it is today. While I understand the need for progress, when does the price become too high to pay? Is it when you lose peace and quiet? Is it when you lose hundreds of miles of wilderness? What about when a 20-year-old homegrown business that was built from scratch by a Thompson native and is not tied to Vale or Manitoba Hydro is snuffed out? If nothing is done that is exactly what will happen because not one, but two Manitoba Hydro projects are threatening to drive away Cory’s customers and their wallets. Do not get me wrong. I understand Manitoba Hydro employs many people in the Thompson area and I am not holding them responsible for the decisions made by a man in a suit sitting in Winnipeg who is completely detached from the real world. However, an average American hunter travelling to Canada spends approximately $6,000 to $10,000 start to finish. Hunter dollars are very important to not only Thompson but Canada itself as these are new dollars being pumped into the economy to fund everything from conservation to schools.  That means for every hunter that Hydro drives away with its poor project management Thompson’s businesses like Crazy Pete’s, the Meridian Hotel and Santa Maria Pizza will suffer financially. Furthermore, if Cory’s business fails, it will cause a trickledown effect as he will no longer be able to employ the 15 or so people he seasonally employs to help run his outfit, which will cause them to have less disposable income that they can spend at other businesses and the cycle continues.  

So, it is with a heavy heart that I am saying farewell to Thompson, its surrounding beauty and its many wonderful residents. Thank you all for your hospitality and kindness throughout the years. I will cherish you all forever. Thompson will always hold a special place in my heart and it will truly be an impossible task to replace the loss of beauty caused by the wheels of progress. 

Blake Metcalfe

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

© Copyright 2018 Thompson Citizen

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