In the end, Crown Services Minister Jeff Wharton decided to leave well enough alone.
Wharton deleted two separate video tweets this week that boasted of high greenhouse gas emissions targets for a fledgling Manitoba Crown corporation, after the Free Press questioned his facts.
Earlier this month, Wharton posted a video in which he claimed Efficiency Manitoba had been given a mandate to help Manitobans reduce their emissions by more than 340,000 tonnes by 2022.
That was a tall order, given the corporation, established by the Progressive Conservative government as a standalone agency to replace Manitoba Hydro’s old Power Smart initiative, isn’t due to launch its programs until April 1.
In a submission last fall to the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba, Efficiency Manitoba proposed programs that would reduce natural gas-generated emissions by an average of 23,900 tonnes over the next three years. Even on a cumulative basis, that would add up to a little more than 140,000 tonnes for that period.
On Monday, Wharton replaced the video with a slightly amended one that expressed the emissions-reduction target as a cut of more than 340,000 tonnes "over the first five years."
That raised questions about whether the government would be setting new GHG emissions-reductions targets for Efficiency Manitoba — and precisely which five-year period Wharton was talking about.
By Tuesday, that video was also deleted from his Twitter account "to avoid causing further confusion," a government spokeswoman explained.
Wharton did not respond to repeated interview requests.
The government spokeswoman said 340,000 tonnes was the original emissions-reduction target established by the Pallister government for Efficiency Manitoba when it announced its green plan in 2017.
"Given (that establishment of) Efficiency Manitoba was delayed and won’t be operational till April 2020, their targets and time frame have been adjusted to coincide with our first carbon savings account (which runs from 2018-22)," she said, referring to the province’s method of tracking emissions reductions.
Manitoba has set a GHG reduction goal of no less than one megatonne for the 2018 to 2022 period.
NDP MLA Adrien Sala was incredulous at Wharton’s initial claim Efficiency Manitoba could somehow reduce GHG emissions in the two years before its programming began.
"I think we’re just seeing more confusion and shifting targets here from a government that’s not taking climate change seriously," he said.
Peter Miller, a retired University of Winnipeg professor who sits on the Manitoba Green Action Committee’s policy committee, said he’s more troubled by the Pallister government’s claims Manitoba is the "cleanest, greenest" province.
Miller calls it "complete misinformation."
Citing information in the June 2019 report of the Expert Advisory Council to the minister of Sustainable Development, he said Manitoba fares no better than mid-pack, compared to other provinces, in emissions per capita (sixth-highest) and emissions compared against economic growth (fifth-highest).
"The premier keeps talking about our hydro investment (as a Manitoba green-selling point), but we’re not making use of it in the transportation sector like Quebec and B.C. (are)," Miller said.