The fate of the Dalhousie Generating Station now seems to come down to politics because my reading of the energy policies of all the political parties is that the oil-burning power plant will be shuttered.

The Liberals were going to close it under the deal to sell NB Power and it doesn't seem to have much of a future after reading local MLA Donald Arseneault and Energy Minister Jack Keir's comments this week.

The Progressive Conservatives could announce to keep open the northern facility, but comments during the NB Power deal debate seem to reinforce the belief that they'd close it too. Alward said in January that "the government should be more proactive about moving away from its fossil-fuel burning plants." That sounds like it would apply to Dalhousie.

The New Democratic Party states in its energy policy that the party endorses a policy that would "phase out coal-fired facilities while guaranteeing employment for those employed within such facilities." While Dalhousie burns heavy fuel oil now, that policy direction doesn't seem to include Dalhousie.

The Green Party of New Brunswick's energy critic said in January that, "progressive governments around the world are moving away from expensive carbon energy." Dalhousie seems to embody expensive carbon energy.

So if the energy policies of the four main political parties are stacked up against Dalhousie, then the only thing that will save the northern power plant is politics. Arseneault won the riding of Dalhousie-Restigouche East in 2006 by almost 3,500 votes, one of the largest vote margins in the province.

The closing of the power plant, the AbitibiBower mill and the chemical plants mean that the community is in a lot of pain. In any normal election cycle, that spells trouble for an incumbent MLA despite Arseneault's previous strength in the area.

Any political party whose candidate in Dalhousie promised to keep the plant open would have to square that with their earlier energy policy statements. It would be interesting to see all four political parties agree before the campaign on a common strategy for the northern plant so Dalhousie residents do not turn into political pawns when the Sept. 27 election rolls around.

  •