New Brunswick

Opposition demands election over NB Power sale

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is demanding Premier Shawn Graham call an election over the proposed deal to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec.

Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward is demanding Premier Shawn Graham call an election over the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Québec.

Alward said if Graham does not call an election over the massive deal, the Progressive Conservatives will delay the agreement in the legislative assembly.

The province's opposition leader said it's unfair that the proposed deal is giving a rate cut to large industrial clients, but not to residential ratepayers.

"Shawn Graham may be for sale but New Brunswick is not for sale," Alward said.

New Brunswick has fixed election dates, so voters are not supposed to head to the polls until Sept. 27, 2010.

Hydro-Québec has agreed to purchase New Brunswick's power plants for $4.8 billion, with the exception of three thermal power plants. The New Brunswick government will use that money to wipe out all of NB Power's debt.

The proposed deal would also freeze residential rates for five years, and after March 31, 2015, the rates would be indexed to New Brunswick's consumer price index. Rate increases could go higher than inflation, but only if Hydro-Québec has to pay for additional power generation.

New Brunswick's large industrial customers will have their rates lowered to Quebec's prices, but they will not be frozen.

It is estimated that the rate savings for residential and business customers will be roughly $5 billion.

Engaging through other means: Graham

When asked whether New Brunswick residents would get a chance to vote on the proposed energy deal, Graham said the provincial government will be engaging citizens through various other means.

The legislature will reconvene on Nov. 17 and a debate will be held on the proposed changes to the Electricity Act, which will allow the deal to go through. As well, a special all-party committee will be struck to examine the proposed power pact.

Graham said if the Tories hold up the deal, ratepayers will pay the consequences.

"If we don't get this deal closed and achieve what we are attempting to do by March 31 there will be a three per cent power rate increase," Graham said in an interview

"And for next five years that is three per cent year after year after that, so that is a potential 15 per cent increase in power rates under the existing structure."

Graham said if the agreement is approved, the rate freeze will immediately take effect.