The ‘power’ of economic development

The local media this morning is reporting that residential electricity customers won’t have to pay as big an increase for power next year as NB Power predicted in October The Public Utilities Board ruled on Wednesday that industrial users will have to pay a larger part of the average 11 per cent increase NB Power is seeking in 2006-2007 and residential users should pay less.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I just bought this summer a big old maison in downtown Moncton. My electricity costs are absolutely shocking (no pun intended) but I can’t help but think this ruling may hamper economic development.

One of the cost areas that manufacturers look at closely when evaluating a community is energy costs. I have watched over the past 15 years as our industrial and commercial power rates have steadily risen from one of the best in Canada to now one of the worst.

Maybe we don’t realize how much we are reliant on manufacturing in this province. Well, let me remind you that manufacturing jobs in Greater Moncton alone grew by over 50% from 1991 to 2001. Other areas of the province such as Bathurst-Campbellton are even more reliant on manufacturing.

So hammering industrial users may be a great political decision but maybe not a good policy decision.

I don’t know this for sure. Maybe manufacturers will absorb these increases. Maybe there will be grumbling but no real negative impact.

It will save me about $400/year – more than the measly income tax cut a couple of years ago – my pocket book is relieved – but my head tells me this is another ominous warning sign for the economic future of our province.

And I would gladly pay that $400 more per year if I thought it would contribute to fixing our economic problems.