Power Politics

CBC Online News | Updated Aug. 18, 2006

Bernard Lord's Tory government is hoping a set of sweeping energy reforms will eliminate one of the election campaign's biggest pocketbook issues: the rising cost of energy.

Lord's minority government introduced the changes last spring, just as the government seemed certain to fall on a budget vote and the province was facing a perfect storm of energy-cost problems.

New Brunswickers had just limped through a mercifully short winter that saw the price of home heating fuel skyrocket. Gasoline prices remained at record highs, and NB Power was trying to convince the province's regulatory agency to allow a rate hike of nearly 13 per cent for residential and industrial customers.

Voters were cranky and tired of paying energy costs that seemed to be spiralling out of control. That's when Lord sidestepped the entire issue with a surprise $100-million energy policy that appeared to be lifted right of the playbook of the far left.

Now, after two months of gas price regulation that has kept drivers paying well more than $1 a litre of regular unleaded gasoline, and an as-yet unfulfilled promise to remove provincial sales tax from all home heating bills, it's up to the voters to decide whether the energy plan is enough to give the Tories another chance at governing.

Lord's new power plan:
  • Remove eight per cent provincial sales tax from all home-heating bills, including oil, electricity, natural gas, propane and firewood.
  • Cap this year's power rate increase at eight per cent for residential customers, instead of 13 per cent, as NB Power had requested from the Public Utilities Board.
  • Regulate the price of gasoline, diesel, home-heating oil and natural gas starting July 1.
  • Working with the Departments of Finance and Energy, force NB Power to conduct a feasibility study of a second nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau.
  • Take greater control of finances and operation of NB Power.
Changes for NB Power

  • Utility must appear before PUB every three years.
  • Must cancel management bonuses.
  • Must eliminate practice of estimating power bills.
  • Must save $20 million internally.
  • Must aggressively pursue legal action against Venezuelan oil companies over Orimulsion fiasco.

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