New Brunswick

Opposition's plan for NB Power is to consult: Alward

New Brunswick's opposition leader says he's not in any hurry to come up with his own plan for NB Power, despite repeated demands from the Graham Liberals that he do so.

New Brunswick's Opposition leader says he's not in any hurry to come up with his own plan for NB Power, despite repeated demands from the Graham Liberals that he do so.

PC Leader David Alward said he probably wouldn't put anything on the table until he's premier, but he plans to campaign in the Sept. 27 election on a promise to consult New Brunswickers.

"Part of what I need to do, and have the responsibility as a leader, is to help bring those ideas and options together, involving New Brunswickers in that process, and that's what we'll be doing," said Alward, whose motion for a referendum on the NB Power deal was defeated on Feb. 18.

He contends the government doesn't have a mandate to sell the majority of NB Power's assets to Hydro-Québec for $3.2 billion and that the public deserves to have a voice on the issue, which will affect the province's future.

The PC energy policy, which was adopted before the party knew the Liberals would sign the deal with Quebec, offers only vague promises of clean, affordable, renewable energy.

No consensus on alternatives

On Monday, Alward attended a public "Options Summit" organized by grassroots opponents of the deal in order to discuss alternatives. But if he was looking for a consensus on what he might do instead as premier, that didn't happen.

There were pro-nuclear experts and anti-nuclear activists, tidal power advocates and tidal power skeptics. Several speakers said the government should generate and even sell more electricity, but should do it differently, while others said the goal should be to consume less.

Meeting organizer Tom Mann said the goal wasn't a single alternative to the Graham Liberals' plan for NB Power.

"There are different opinions as to what would be that silver bullet solution, however what we're wanting to expose is that there are a number of options that are available," he said.

Under the deal, expected to be finalized by the end of March, Hydro-Québec would acquire most of the province's power-generation assets, but New Brunswick would maintain control of transmission and distribution.

New Brunswick's residential ratepayers will get a five-year rate freeze. Medium-sized industries will see a roughly 15 per cent cut in power rates and will have those rates locked in for five years, while large industrial customers will see their power prices fall by roughly 23 per cent.

After five years, rates will increase with inflation and be regulated by the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board.

The deal was watered down from the original $4.8-billion package announced in October because of a public outcry and open dissent within the Liberal caucus.