On Feb. 6, 2006 New Brunswick's Public Utilities Board began hearing arguments into NB Power's request to raise electricity rates as much as 11.9 per cent for industrial users and 12.9 per cent for residents.
This is the first time in 12 years that NB Power has appeared before the PUB to justify its reasons for raising rates.
The CBC and other media outlets made legal arguments that the hearings should be open to the public and that the media should be able to attend all sessions and record the proceedings on behalf of the public. Previously, this was not the case. The PUB agreed, and have allowed reporters and their cameras unprecedented access to the sessions.
Stories from the hearings have given the CBC audience a glimpse of the inner workings of NB Power, and allowed you to tell us what you think about the proposed rate increase.
We appreciate your responses to these stories and they help inform our coverage. Please keep your emails coming.
"This is an absolutely preposterous situation that the people of NB have been placed in. I cannot countenance how inept and incapable the management and executives of this Corporation can be. Losses of these amounts are simply unacceptable, in any sector. For these people simply to shrug them off and retaliate against the very people keeping them in business, the consumers, by further raising their rates simply beggars the imagination. These so-called "managers" and "executives" should be sacked forthwith and the books of NB Power opened for public scrutiny. At very least, there should be a full-scale Ministerial inquiry as to how this atrocious waste of money was let to occur. If any other agency in North America tried to cover up its own incompetence by raising the rates it charges "to make up for (further) projected losses" I would say they'd be laughed out of business. Someone should step in and sort this out, and shortly.
Paul Kearney, Oromocto, New Brunswick
"I am outraged that NB Power gets away with so much. First they basically "guess" their tax bill, instead of actually calculating it and being financially responsible. Second, they implement some sort of a guessing game system with our power bills, causing many people's January bills (mine included) to go up ridiculous amounts. Now, they want to increase our rates too? And this is based on what - their "guesses" of how much more money they need to operate? If this increase is allowed to go through, we are just paying to compensate for their complete incompetence in running a company."
Aimee Gahan, Fredericton, New Brunswick
"NB Power said it decided in consultation with unnamed provincial officials to ignore the law and estimate its tax bill instead of properly calculating it." Wouldn't we all like to be able to do this? What makes these people think they can do this? We're already paying through the nose for their stupidity of the Orimulsion lack of deal."
Cheryl Petreman, Fredericton, New Brunswick
"This can't be serious. Is NB Power saying that the rest of the country can estimate their tax bill because we can't afford to calculate our taxes? Pay the accountants the money and do it right or don't do it all!"
Mike Thorne, Calgary, Alberta
"I am a retired pensioner on a limited income. Unfortunately I cannot afford to attend the Upcoming Hearing and therefore request that my personal concerns be considered at your hearing.
It is difficult for me to keep a respectable living trying to adjust to our annual inflation rate. I am confident that if you granted NB Power the authority to raise residential power prices by as much as 13% I will be unable to meet my financial commitments. Please consider us pensioners before you authorize such a hike.
I appreciate that fuel cost have gone up for I too have to compensate for that also. However, if I can adjust to these fuel hikes by reprioritizing my standard of living so too should NB Power.
It was not that many years ago when I was living in Halifax that I attended St. Mary's University to acquire an Executive MBA. It cost $19,000. I recall a few classmates of mine who were employed by NB Power. They bragged about how NB Power was paying for not only their tuition fees but also to fly them in and out of Halifax weekly and as well pay for there hotel, meals, etc. Now as I said, I appreciate that the cost of fuel has gone up and that on its own would seem to warrant their request for a rate hike. I am sure that any of my former NB Power Classmates could validate that very easily. But I'd like to see (as you should) any study or independent audit done on the company. I sincerely question their business ethics. It seems to me that it is time they too tightened their belt and reprioritized their standard of living.
Thomas Underhill, Smithfield, New Brunswick
"I've been stewing over this interview for sometime now and I?m appalled at the arrogance of Mr. Hay. The shell game that is hydro with it?s multiple companies under one umbrella, buying and selling to itself, hidden costs and contracts, programs that were not fully researched and thought out and outrageous salaries of the favoured few. Isn?t it time new ideas and incentives were introduced to encourage residential power generation using solar and wind power. The 12% increase is this year, what about next year and the next. The inability of the utility to think and act in the best interest of the residents of NB has once again left us holding the bag. Maybe it?s time for a Gomery type hearing on how this company is being mismanaged."
Bob Wakefield, Maple Ridge, New Brunswick
"Mr. Hay's comment that its time we got over yet another fiasco at Coleson Cove. I can't help but think if I cost my employer even 1% of the amount wasted on just this one item I wouldn't be working for that employer anymore. Apologies just don't cut it Mr. Hay. My employer might even try to recoup some of the monies I cost them. But I guess he thinks "Oops" should make us all feel better and willing to underwrite bad management at NB Power."
Gerald Haines, Nackawic, New Brunswick
"Yes I am sure Mr. Hay would like us to forget orimulsion, forget the $35M party to celebrate Ottawa sharing in refurbishing Lepreau (by the way, those were our tax dollars), forget the interest earned every three months when we overpay our monthly bills, forget that NB Power are to my knowledge the only business that only gives 2 weeks to pay the monthly bill before they start charging interest.
NB Power has a top heavy, overpaid management group completely out of touch with reality. Before they are allowed to raise rates they should be required to start cutting the fat internally, then open the books to public scrutiny, and then apply for a rate increase. No damn wonder we are considered a have-not province, we have been taken by corporations, both crown and corporate, and government since the 60's. The services we have been paying through the nose for over the years have all increased in price and lessened in availability. No wonder our youth want to leave New Brunswick."
H. Wood, Oromocto, New Brunswick
"First off, let me say that if Mr.Lord's vision for New Brunswick is more people on unemployment, and maybe even welfare ,then let him go ahead and okay the power rate hikes Mr.Hay is looking for. Do you have any idea how much power just one paper mill consumes and if it shuts down because of these power hikes where are you planning to make up the lost revenue? You better put a lot of thought in the decision you have to make. As for Mr. Hay no we will not forget the Orimulsion screw up and we or I do not accept NB Power's apology. As for NBers having to face the facts, Mr.Hay,it is you who should face the facts. It is NB Power who completely screwed this deal up and now the people of NB are having to pay for it. As for NB Power being given a mandate by the goverment they in turn were given a mandate by the people of NB and I'm sure the tories wouldn"t have won a second term on a platform of unlimited higher taxation due to NB Power. Raising taxes/rates for a solution is one of the easiest things to do, doesn"t really require much thought or vision and that is what Mr.Hays is missing.
Delbert Thorne, St. George, New Brunswick
"This slick NB Power guy is finally doing his job as a "spin doctor." What about the "millions" NB Power have wasted with Orimulsion, inefficiencies, his high executive salaries, excessive sick time of all employees' and disability claims. Does Mr. Hay think were a bunch of fools? They say their expenses are up 15% - does NB Tel or Aliant ask the public to pay for their "failures or "capital-expenditures" absolutely not? So why should we pay for NB Power?"
L.W. Brown, Rothesay, New Brunswick
"So Mr. Hays feels that it is time for us a consumers to get over the $2-billion waste of money by N.B. power as it relates to the Orimulsion deal to supply power to Coleson Cove. I would gladly get over it if the brains at N.B. power involved in this waste of taxpayer money were held accountable and fired. Again another example of consumers paying the price for mistakes of government and N.B. Bower as a business. That should never have happened. Let's get real who in their right mind would spend billions prior to signing a contract? Oh yes, the idiots running N.B. power and the brains who hired them in the first place. I am sure if i worked for a company and wasted 2 billion my days with that company would be cut short immediately. Mr. Hays may not have any concerns about us as ratepayers being gouged as a result of N.B. powers incompetence but obviously others do and hopefully his days at the helm will be numbered."
Lloyd Wiseman, Dunlop, New Brunswick