New Brunswick

Some names on online NB Power deal petition rejected

The Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature has rejected several hundred names on a 5,500-name petition against the NB Power deal, presented in the legislature Tuesday by Opposition leader David Alward.

The Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature has rejected several hundred names on a 5,500-name petition against the NB Power deal, presented in the legislature Tuesday by Opposition leader David Alward.

Petitions must include signatures to be valid, said Speaker Roy Boudreau.

The names in question were collected online, which makes it difficult to verify the identity of people, Boudreau said.

Last May, however, the Liberal government had suggested the legislature rules should be modernized to allow petitions to be submitted electronically.

Government house leader Greg Byrne said he doesn't know what happened to the plan to permit internet petitions.

"To date, I would have to say I'm not sure where that review is," he said.

With anti-NB Power deal petitions coming in regularly, Opposition MLA Paul Robichaud said he would like to see the rules broadened to allow email petitioners.

"You know their point of view, for us, is as valid as anyone who signs a petition," he said.

Need to modernize

Bethany Thorne-Dykstra, who organized the Put N.B. People First petition against selling the majority of NB Power's assets to Hydro-Québec, said the rules should be updated because the internet makes grassroots protest easier.

"We've had such a few weeks to do anything. We've formed a whole non-profit organization, we've co-ordinated 410 people together — and the email has been a big part of that network," she said.

"And it's been able to get information back and forth quickly, so it's been huge for us."

E-petitions would also make the system more democratic, said Thorne-Dykstra.

"People are doing things by email all the time now. They use that more than their mailbox. And I think it is time for shifting and changing to the 21st century."

Thorne-Dykstra said she was glad the vast majority of names on the petition were accepted because they were old-fashioned signatures.

The petition calls for a referendum on the sale, or an immediate provincial election on the issue.

Under the $3.2-billion deal, 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 would get a five-year rate freeze. Medium-sized industries would see a roughly 15 per cent cut in power rates and have those rates locked in for five years, while large industrial customers would see their power prices fall by roughly 23 per cent.

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

Corrections

  • It was previously reported that the New Brunswick government had rejected several hundred names on the petition when it was actually the Speaker of the New Brunswick legislature.
    Mar 10, 2010 7:20 PM AT

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