Regarding the NB Power discussion, I am going to move this blog back to other economic development topics until there is new information that we can chew on. I have always viewed this blog as a place where people can debate ideas and policies related to economic development and in this situation it has turned into a bash Shawn Graham blog for a whole lot of people. I have disagreed with the Premier on a wide variety of policy issues – tax cuts, etc. but it has always been on the issues – I find demeaning a person’s character is quite distasteful. Maybe I am a bit guilty of personal attacks with my critique of David Alward’s reponses to this whole thing although you will never read me ripping into to the guy’s integrity or character. I admire everyone that goes into public office to work for the people and I mean that sincerely.
That stuff’s just not my bag, folks. I think that whole issue with Drew Speight and CBC crystallized things for me. On the one hand people (certainly not all people but a considerable number of the people commenting on this blog) will mock and scorn the experts who looked at this deal – Energy Probe, the investment bank that evaluated the assets of NB Power, etc. and on the other when Mr. Speight says he doesn’t think NB Power’s assets have been properly valued I get 12 blog posts with “see, I told you so” and the link or cut and paste content from the CBC story. So that’s what we have. For some people, if the head climatologist at Environment Canada came down to New Brunswick and said there is a hurricane coming and you had better prepare and Aunt Kate said “don’t be so silly, my cat told me there is no hurricane coming” I’d get 12 snarky blog posts saying “see, I told you so” and crapping on David Phillips. I know you some of you like to pick apart my little analogies but you can choose your own.
Of the 400+ comments, there have been some that have addressed the serious issues that need to be clarified and possibly adjusted in the MOU. I hope those voices, many are against my position, are the ones that bubble to the surface.
As I see it these are a few of the major issues:
What about power outside the Heritage Pool? There must have been some modelling done on this and I think the government should be clear and show us. It is obvious that power outside the Pool will be more expensive but I think we need to know what the impact could be. In addition, we need a credible assessment of our needs going forward (again this should have been done for this exercise). It just came out that Ontario’s electricity needs are going down over the next 20 years due to industry changes and energy efficiency efforts. If that is the case in NB, that would be good to know.
The spirit of the agreement is to peg future rate increases to inflation but there are clauses that have been put in that are causing concern among people that know about these types of things. David Alward says that this will allow “Hydro Quebec to charge whatever they want” and the government is saying these are just reasonable elements of a contract. It shouldn’t be too hard to put out real examples of what these additional costs might be (credible sources – not disgruntled NB Power guys sending around spreadsheets and, yes, I have received several already). If they could be a serious impact on rates, we should know.
The valuation of NB Power’s assets. As much as I like Drew Speight, I think it would be a good idea to make the investment bank’s assessment public (has anyone seen this?).
There are others about use of local suppliers, the government’s energy strategy/hub concept, etc. that should also be addressed.
I’d like them to project out 30 years for me and tell me what we will see. It’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty – if you believe some of the global warming ideas we could be in full scale catastrophe in 30 years – but they should be able to do some reasonable forecasting. In that time frame does New Brunswick remain a competitive place for electricity costs (residential, commercial and industrial) or is David Alward right and New Brunswick will become a wasteland.
Finally, what are the terms under which the deal can be made null and void. If Alward is right and Hydro-Quebec puts the screws to New Brunswick and our rates end up going higher than the rest of Canada and it pushes industry out of the province – what is the recourse?
So please feel free to comment but the blog is moving on for now. If you want to hammer Shawn Graham you can go to the CBC website and fill your boots. There must be other blogs for that. This blog has never really catered to a retail audience – I’d like it to be retail but most people don’t really care to much about economic development. It’s a boring topic and I am happy writing content that is read by economic development types and others that have an interest. I don’t make any money on this thing, I don’t get paid to write it or to advocate for any company or government department. I have authored this blog for five years because I continue to believe there is a need to debate real issues regarding this province and Atlantic Canada’s economic development.
PS – about CBC
Just a little piece about CBC. The folks here in Moncton ran a commentary from me supportive of the NB Power HQ deal (assuming my caveats above are fleshed out and addressed properly). I have interacted with the Information Morning team on a number of occasions going back five years or so and they are top notch. I would go to bat for those guys at any time. Jacques Poitras, in my opinion, is the one of the top journalists in New Brunswick and probably unequalled in the area of legislative reporting – certainly since I have been around. I won’t begin to try and explain how the log starts rolling on a specific story like H1N1 or NB Power. I suspect there are graduate level seminars in journalism schools about how these things evolve. I just wanted to be clear on this. In my experience, the CBC at least in Moncton has not been hostile to economic development and in my recollection has covered most related stories very effectively.