'Nationalization' of NB Power an option: PC leader
Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward raised the prospect of nationalizing the New Brunswick energy system if the planned NB Power deal goes through and he wins the September provincial election.
Alward was speaking to CBC News on Thursday morning about the Liberal government's scaled-back deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec.
"There are other options out there, things such as nationalization of our energy system," Alward said.
Alward said he is planning to write Quebec Premier Jean Charest to inform him that if he wins the Sept. 27 provincial election that he intends to do what he can to tear up the deal and find a way to bring the energy system under New Brunswick control again.
"What I'm saying is there are options out there, that [nationalization] has been done in the past. I don't know if that is the best solution for the future," Alward said.
"What I'm saying is, as a government and as a party, we will do everything that we can do to ensure the future of New Brunswick is protected and our energy sector is protected."
Alward did not elaborate on how the enegy system could be nationalized if he won the next election. The Tory leader said he would like to regain control of the parts of NB Power that the Liberal government is attempting to sell to Quebec.
Premier Shawn Graham accused Alward in question period of also wanting to take over other energy projects in New Brunswick.
"All the private-sector development that's occurred in the province of New Brunswick with wind-farm development, he wants to take over that debt," Graham said Thursday.
"So he wants to increase debt. That also means he wants to take over our municipal power plants in the province of New Brunswick: Saint John Energy, Perth-Andover, Edmundston."
Alward said Graham's comments are ridiculous and his nationalization idea would apply only to the power plants the New Brunswick government is selling to Quebec.
Under the new deal, New Brunswick will offload the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station, its hydro dams and two diesel-fired generating units to Quebec for $3.2 billion.
The original memorandum of understanding signed in late October also bundled NB Power's transmission and distribution corporations into the $4.8-billion package.
The new arrangement continues the five-year rate freeze for residential customers.
Large industrial power users will see their rates cut by 23 per cent and medium-sized businesses will get a 15 per cent rate cut.
Graham said Wednesday that the deal is now finalized.
Alward criticized the Liberal government for refusing to divulge the text of the power pact.
"The premier just doesn't get it: process matters," Alward said.
"The people of New Brunswick have been saying all along that they want to be involved in the future of NB Power and the future of our energy sector."
Graham said the terms agreed to by the two provinces may not be disclosed until after the March 31 closing date.
"What I'm saying today is we're working towards the March 31 deadline," Graham said.
"It may take an extra few weeks, I'm not sure. There's a lot of work to be done. But what I'm saying is that when that document is finalized, it will be released."