After a couple of days of reflecting, I have decided the best thing to do is to restart the conversation here about the NB Power sale to Hydro-Quebec as well as other economic development issues that matter to New Brunswick.
I took the allegation of conflict of interest seriously but I have talked with a half dozen people that understand and have dealt with these issues for years and they assure me that there is no issue here and I will leave it at that.
I hope we can have civilized discussion about the issues. I went back through some of the 500+ comments that I have received on the NBP/HQ issue and the majority are mostly rants or restatements of the same theories. I think there is a FaceBook site if you need a cathartic release. In that same review of the comments I came across a pile that really were pertinent to the issue. I guess we need to flesh those out and try and debate them better. Or least make sure that the folks reviewing this MOU before moving to the outright terms of sale have access to them.
As I have said, I fully believe in the broad strokes of the MOU. It is shifting the cost structure lower for electricity in this province considerably lower and that will be good news for industry and everyone else.
I continue to maintain that NB Power – due to a variety of factors from its debt, to generation mix, to age of assets, was on a path that would not allow for industrial power rates that would remain competitive with other industrial jursidictions across North America. In fact, I talked with an NB Power guy just six months ago and he agreed with me that it would be impossible for New Brunswick to ever compete with Quebec or British Columbia again on power rates (as New Brunswick did for years).
Of course, one of the aspects of the debate is whether or not that even matters. There are many economically successful jursidictions that do not have cheap power. There has been a thread of discussion on this blog that we should not seek competitive industrial power rates rather we should turn our focus elsewhere.
I don’t think it is a binary choice. I think we need to have a strong and growing industrial economy serving 21st century needs across North America. At the same time, we need to find our niche in the new knowledge economy. It doesn’t need to be either/or.