NB Power ad nauseum

A Conservative friend of mine sent me an email saying he was glad the NB Power deal was done so we could now go back to focusing the more serious challenges facing New Brunswick.  I told him I would blog my response but I am not quite sure if he was being tongue in cheek with his comment.

The truth is that if the deal had gone through that would have silenced NB Power as a front issue for at least five years.  Now, we have ensured that NB Power will be front page news and a pervasive topic for discussion well into the future.     Columnists continue to make their points.  In fact, certain columnists now will have columns on both Wednesday and Saturday in the Telegraph-Journal.  There goes the neighbourhood.

I do think it is important to point out that we will still need expert opinion and critical analysis of NB Power and energy in New Brunswick moving forward.  In the last few days I have heard or read some pretty crazy stuff such as Point Lepreau will never come back online, the hydro dam in Mactaquac will need to be completely shut down within a decade, etc.  These may be true (I sincerely hope not) but in the hyped up world we live in now we will need to have go to people to provide expert opinion on these issues.

I honestly don’t see a pathway to any electricity future that would have institutionalized the rate structure for both industry and residents the way the HQ deal did.   There may be some innovative ideas and I hope people will be thinking them through.

The favourite option of the great day for democracy folks of just buying power from HQ on a long term deal is likely what will end up happening.  But remember, if a large chunk of heavy industry leaves NB, that will cut our power need by 40%-50%.  Think of it as a macabre version of energy conservation.

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12 Responses to NB Power ad nauseum

  1. mikel says:

    For the benefit of ‘the sky is falling crowd’, it should be pointed out that the Lepreau and Mactaquac issues are FAR from ‘crazy’. Lepreau has been pushed back a year, and as I’ve pointed out, Energy Probe has done numerous articles on this and compared it to Ontario’s ‘attempt’ to reserruct nuclear plants-all of which failed. They weren’t Candu (I don’t think), but the details were quite similar. Again, I agree with Richard that had there been more discussion YEARS ago, and more importantly, a referendum on the issue, then voters would know that the ‘experts’ were saying NOT to try this at Lepreau. Of course, there were SERIOUS decommissioning costs, but at some point the chickens come home to roost.

    As for Mactaquac, over the years you can find MANY articles in engineering journals, in fact for the aggregate concrete that was used, Mactaquac is quite famous the world over. However, engineers rarely attempt to predict the future like energy pundits do.

  2. Samonymous says:

    I honestly don’t see a pathway to any electricity future that would have institutionalized the rate structure for both industry and residents the way the HQ deal did. There may be some innovative ideas and I hope people will be thinking them through.

    If anything has come out of this whole exercise, it is that traditional governing parties in NB have learned a very hard lesson, in that, if the democracy deficit is not addressed now or in the near future, it will be virtually impossible to pass similar type legislation in the years to come. Funny how things work sometime.

  3. Jon Doe says:

    I would hate to see the proposes UMOE facility pull out of Miramichi as a result of this deal falling through. As much as I’d like to see the misinformed protesters eat crow and wear some egg on their faces, this is too severe a repercussion to send the message.

    The government needs to seriously address the escalating power costs in this province.

  4. richard says:

    ” it is that traditional governing parties in NB have learned a very hard lesson,”

    Ah, I wish that was true, but the democracy deficit will not be a simple thing to address. For example, what is the main road block to the implementation of the Finn report? Is it a lack of ‘consultation’, a lack of information, a kneejerk reaction to the fear of increased taxes, or what? We have a significant percentage of NBers living in LSDs where they have no local representation, and almost no say in what happens in their region. In a wide swath of the province, people are not consulted in any meaningful way about local issues, nor do they receive much information about them. Despite that, there is a huge amount of opposition to the Finn recommendations, so much so that politicians will not touch it. You can call that a reflection of the people’s will if you want, but it is also a reflection of fear and ignorance. Information, transparency and some honest engagement from politicians would be required to get some movement here, but the fall out from the HQ deal will not lead to that, IMHO. So the ‘hard lesson learned’ is to avoid the controversial and run for cover.

    It is not really a question of just asking people what they want, but more of an issue of getting people engaged to the point where we can at least largely agree what are the issues and facts. For that we need more than referenda or polls or the echo chamber of social media.

    “However, engineers rarely attempt to predict the future like energy pundits do.”

    Actually, once the chemical reaction going on in the aggregates was understood, engineers were only to happy to revise their prediction of the future for the dam. There are many concrete structures around the world facing the same problem. When Mactaquac was being built, engineers selected the best material available for the concrete; trouble was neither they nor the leading concrete expertise consulted knew about that issue. We are fortunate that Mactaquac is mainly an earthen dam. Otherwise, it might not be salvageable.

  5. ron jessulat says:

    Reading your article in the Telegraph Journal lamenting the demise of the power deal, I can’t help thinking how it didn’t have to end this way. I firmly believe that Shawn Graham should have delivered a “fireside chat” a year ago telling the people, “Look folks, we are in a desperate situation here with NB Power. Will you give us the mandate to explore some options and we’ll discuss what we think is the best course of action to follow?” The reception would have been much better.
    The Graham government is the author of its own misfortune. Repeated attempts to force radical change upon the people without consultation, the constant and sickening “spin” in the legislature and the media, and finally the property tax assessment issue has put everyone is such a hostile mood that we are polarized against the sitting government.

  6. west quaco says:

    “It is not really a question of just asking people what they want, but more of an issue of getting people engaged to the point where we can at least largely agree what are the issues and facts. For that we need more than referenda or polls or the echo chamber of social media.”

    Bravo, Richard.

  7. Samonymous says:

    For example, what is the main road block to the implementation of the Finn report? Is it a lack of ‘consultation’, a lack of information, a knee jerk reaction to the fear of increased taxes, or what?

    There needs to be leadership, at the party level, willing to take on the tough challenges before they enter into a heated election debate or into government. Some of the best policy development comes from formulating policies well before a party is ready to take the reigns. I thought the federal Liberals made an attempt at this but failed miserably over the weekend. In today’s politics people want some concrete and practical stances from their politicians and parties. If it appears that an organization is floating around with no direction waiting for the other to fail, they won’t succeed. Which is why I also think Alward (but mostly his party before he was installed as leader) missed the boat.

  8. mikel says:

    First quickly, the Mactaquac Dam has had repeated analysis and several VERY different prognosis. Most recently an engineering firm stated it may not be as quickly in need of replacement as once thought, but the range is anywhere from 2013 to 2030. We simply don’t know FOR SURE.

    The democratic deficit is indeed VERY difficult to address with ‘politics as usual’ and thats the lesson the parties have learned. No doubt right now they are in as much shock as those in Facebook who have seen their dream realized. That’s why the parties really haven’t put out a position on ANYTHING as of yet, since when you have a group of even, say, 30,000 people, you are sure to take a drubbing from SOME of them.

    This has been building for awhile, NB and Canada are WAY behind international movements. In several countries its been the internet which has literally decided elections. Several years ago TJ Burke started a blog, it lasted about two months and there were suggestions that he was pretty much ‘ordered’ to shut it down. Last fall Lamrock was trying to rejuvinate his flagging popularity with his idea of ‘100 votes’ or something like that. The notion was to select 100 people in his riding for various issues and collectively have them come to a resolution, which he would support in the legislature.

    Thats the ‘theory’ because like others he quickly discovered that once people are INVITED into the political arena, they fail to see what is so special about hte representative, and the ‘idea’ never actually sat.

    Its not a partisan issue either, the conservatives are normally more ameniable to direct democracy, but not by much. Outside Ottawa Scott Reid represents a fairly rural riding, and while in opposition he regularly held riding referenda on numerous important issues. As soon as Harper got into power, guess what? No more referenda.

    As for the Finn Report, if you can find ten New Brunswickers who have even HEARD of it, I’ll give you $50 bucks, no questions asked. LSD’s DO have representatives, they just don’t have any clout-which can be said of virtually ANY local rep. The liberals held a couple of referenda, but all included amalgamation as a requisite. And there was such little fanfare about the issue that turnout was extremely low and most people had no idea a referendum had been held (according to Irving reports).

    I disagree with Richard that it is popular unrest which means its impossible to implement the recommendations of Finn. The first recommendation is that elections be held for representatives, rather than appointments. I would be VERY surprised if rural NBers actually favoured a practice in place before 1850 and which was the main reason for the revolution of 1837. I HIGHLY doubt that apart from the several people with connections who manage to get ‘nominated’ by the province and who have little power anyway, that the population is so adverse to this. In fact, it shows just how bad the educational system and wealth of rural areas is that this hasn’t been a court challenge that FORCED the government to change it.

    Recommendation 2 and 3 are, I agree, contentious because FEW people have found the benefits of amalgamation are nearly what they are touted. Usually the only result is an increase in taxes to pay for more bureaucratization, and more laws that the people often don’t want.

    EITHER of those can be addressed with simple democratic initiatives like the referendum. In small villages in Europe it is still common to simply have a town hall meeting and have a vote on issues. There is certainly nothing that bars that from happening, in fact rural areas are ideal for such measures.

    Recommendation 4 is a castoff, without the other three it is meaningless. In short, the ‘democratic deficit’ is people VOTING on issues rather than having them dictated to them by others. This can be done easily with referenda and no big changes need to be made at all.

  9. richard says:

    ” LSD’s DO have representatives, they just don’t have any clout-which can be said of virtually ANY local rep.”

    Wrong. LSDs in some cases have advisory committees, the members of which are not elected. A number of LSDs do not have even that. As advisory committees are not elected, and have no real power to implement policy or raise revenues, they hardly meet the test for a democratic structure. Residents in LSDs are taxed without representation; the Finn report has a solution to that.

    “The first recommendation is that elections be held for representatives, rather than appointments. I would be VERY surprised if rural NBers actually favoured a practice in place before 1850 and which was the main reason for the revolution of 1837″

    Wrong again. Perhaps you would like to actually read the Finn report, rather than skim through it looking for talking points. You have it exactly backwards. The Finn report recommends that LSDs be formed into municipalities with elected representation that have the power to tax. The report also recommends that neighbouring municipalities share services through regional boards that are composed of members elected in the municipalities. They would not be appointed by GNB as you are suggesting. Nor is a two-tier bureaucratic structure being recommended. Please go back and actually read the report.

  10. richard says:

    “As for the Finn Report, if you can find ten New Brunswickers who have even HEARD of it, I’ll give you $50 bucks, no questions asked”

    No questions asked? Then you owe me $50. The MLAs, readers of this blog, and various letters-to-the-editor of local newspapers would total well over 10. Send the cash (no cheques) to David and I work something out with him to collect.

  11. Samonymous says:

    I have to agree with mikel on this one. The only “Finn” people in NB can identify with is “Huckleberry Finn” not the Finn report. Anyway, that’s not the point here. The lack of engagement and awareness is.

    What I think would be ideal is the day when politically engaged NBers can make their own informed decision and judgments before reading a costly bureaucratic report, commission report or points from a handpicked government task force — on any given public policy or topic. At the moment, all we have is poor political parties and leaders, with archaic practices, who have managed to cut citizens off the public from the process. Resulting in either no debate or poor debate.

    Although, I have often thought that as much as this may be because of the lack of intelligent and charismatic leaders that fail to engage the people in general, it also could be because of the age old policies that have pushed away the educated that would be able listen?

    Either way, it’s not good.

  12. mikel says:

    Let’s see the evidence first, then your address and I’ll mail the cash. I wouldn’t be surprised if most MLA’s never heard of it.

    An advisory committee IS a ‘representative with no clout’. And like I said, most New Brunswickers would be quite happy to have elected representation. Richard needs to stop ‘skimming’ what I say just so he can argue against me by repeating the same thing I did. I certainly never said anybody would be ‘appointed’. That’s the whole crux of the issue. Anybody in a rural area would no doubt LOVE to have elected representation. But again, where the public unrest comes in is the ‘power to tax’. To many people, often quite rightly, when the government makes ANY administrative changes it simply means more taxes, and not necessarily more services.

    But again, you can have local decision making WITHOUT all that. IF the government is simply looking for a new way to tax people, thats a very different issue than representation. And as for democracy, try getting something done at the municipal level and you’ll find out what kind of beacon of democracy THAT is. Just because you have an elected representative, doesn’t mean you have democracy.

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