N.S. Power will pay for upgrades, not customers: McNeil promises
Last Updated: Friday, June 5, 2009 | 4:39 PM ET
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil says if he's elected premier next Tuesday, he will force Nova Scotia Power, not its customers, to pay for improving service to reduce blackouts.
Nova Scotia Power has said it plans to spend $100 million over the next five years to improve the grid and prevent power outages.
McNeil said Friday that is the same amount that Nova Scotia Power earns for its parent company, Emera, every year, and he would make sure shareholders pay that bill.
"I believe those improvements should come from profits that are being generated for Emera. Nova Scotians have paid enough," McNeil said.
"Emera is taking money out of our province, out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, to buy investments in California and St. Lucia, and they're not reinvesting in their product here."
Nova Scotia Power has said it won't apply for a rate increase next year, so it's not certain that customers would have to pay for upgrades, although they have in the past.
Politicians don't have the authority now to regulate the power company, but McNeil promised Friday that he would change the law to give politicians more control over the utility.
Right now it's the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, an agency independent from government, that sets power rates and profits.
"If we have to, we'll look at the legislation that governs that utility and rate of return. We'll open up that piece of legislation to ensure that they reinvest in this province," McNeil said.
A Nova Scotia Power spokesman said the company is staying out of the election campaign, and it had no comment on the Liberal leader's statement.
In May, the president of Nova Scotia Power endorsed a key plank in the New Democratic Party's platform: removal of the provincial sales tax from electricity bills.
In a conference call with analysts, president Rob Bennett was asked about the election campaign underway and its implications for the utility. In that call, Bennett endorsed the NDP plan to scrap the provincial sales tax.
"So, there's likely to be a position taken that the tax should be reversed, which I believe would be helpful for our business," Bennett said in the conference call.