New Brunswick

N.B. PCs defend secret energy summit

The New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives are defending their two-day session of secret energy meetings with industry and power consultants.
David Alward's Progressive Conservatives have come under fire for a two-day series of secret meetings with energy experts and industry representatives. ((CBC))
The New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives are defending their two-day session of secret energy meetings with industry and power consultants.

Tory Leader David Alward promised to open up the process surrounding his future energy plan after Premier Shawn Graham shocked the province last October with a plan to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec.

The agenda of the meeting, which was leaked to CBC News last week, included Mark Mosher, a senior executive at J.D. Irving Ltd., Darrell Bishop, a retired vice-president of NB Power, as well as Bill Marshall and Bill Thompson, the two consultants who wrote a 2008 energy report for the provincial government.

Tory MLA Bruce Fitch said the party promised the consultants that the media and the public would be barred from listening to the presentations.

"The stakeholders coming forward say, `Look, we're more than happy to come and talk. We'd rather not be on the front page of the newspaper. That's more for the politicians,'" Fitch said.

The former PC energy minister said there are concerns that some of the presenters' comments could be taken out of context if the meetings were open to the public.

"If somebody's talking about what are our options here, what are our options moving forward, and if somebody takes one line, one comment, that somebody said, and then blows that out of proportion, that's just not fair to that individual coming forward," Fitch said.

The PC explanation is similar to how the Liberal government and others have justified secrecy.

Liberal candidate Lana Hansen, who is vying for the Riverview riding in the Sept. 27 election, said the Tories promised to do better.

"The Conservatives have criticized the Liberals for not being transparent, and then the first chance they get, the Conservatives decide to hold a meeting behind closed doors," Hansen said.

Report coming

Tory MLA Jeannot Volpé said a report will be released on what the presenters said during the private energy sessions. ((CBC))
The Tories were against the Liberal government's failed plan to sell NB Power. Alward has said if he wins power and any consultations led him to believe the utility should be sold he would hold a referendum on the issue.

Alward said in April that he would not unveil any major energy policies until six months after he is elected premier, if he wins the next election.

The PC leader would only commit to holding public consultations on the future of the energy sector.

Now the two-day private energy summit is over, Tory MLA Jeannot Volpé, another former Tory energy minister, said the party will publish a report outlining what the various industry and energy experts told them in their private sessions.

"Those who were involved and everything, it will be public. There'll be a report coming out and names will be on it," Volpé said.