Nfld. & Labrador

Premier Furey 'comfortable' with negotiating position for Churchill Falls — if it happens

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey says he's waiting on advisory panels before deciding fate on Churchill Falls.

Quebec Premier François Legault says his province already looking for a Plan B

Premier Andrew Furey says he's waiting to hear from an advisory panel before deciding which route Newfoundland and Labrador will take with Churchill Falls. (Paul Daly/The Canadian Press)

Quebec Premier François Legault says negotiating a new Churchill Falls contract will begin in the next few months but his province is also working on a Plan B.

Churchill Falls, in Labrador, supplies 15 per cent of Quebec's power and, right now, the province is getting a lot of its power for a very low price.

"In the next few months we have to negotiate the contract with N.L. for Churchill Falls, which stops in 2041," Legault told reporters this week. 

"I don't want to have no Plan B in my pocket and be obliged to accept whatever the tariff Andrew Furey is proposing me. So I think if we want to be in a good negotiation position with Newfoundland, we need to have a B Plan for Churchill Falls, and it means a new dam."

With the contract end date approaching, Hydro-Québec risks losing a chunk of its power, which is why Legault wants to negotiate a new deal beyond 2041.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said there's no guarantee negotiations will even happen but added it's important to note Hydro-Quebéc still owns nearly 35 per cent of Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited.

A man in a black suit stands at a podium with blue flags behind him.
Quebec Premier François Legault says his province is working on a Plan B ahead of potentially negotiating a new deal with Newfoundland and Labrador on the future of Churchill Falls. (CBC)

"This is an incredible asset, it's one that grows more valuable by the day and I'm quite comfortable in our starting position should that be the course that decide to take," Furey said Thursday.

"If you look at the position that we're in currently, whether it's because of the disruption in the global energy markets or the necessity to provide greener energy for Quebec's domestic use, whether it's for them to provide the demand and meet the demand for their industrial use, this will continue to be a source of changing market pressures. That puts Newfoundland and Labrador in a better negotiating position."

Two panels are tasked with advising Newfoundland and Labrador and plotting apath forward with the historic hydroelectric dam that began producing power in 1971 — 18 months ahead of schedule.

Negotiating a new deal with Quebec is still a possible outcome, Furey said, but there are other options and he will wait to see what the panels will suggest.

He said he hopes to have a report in his hands within the next few weeks, although in May 2022 Furey said the report was expected by the following September. 

"There are other potential opportunities that we haven't thought about, haven't contemplated, whether that's in using the hydroelectric capacity for domestic or domestic-industrial use, or for hydrogen use — there is a different energy space than there was in 1969," Furey said. 

"So I'm interested to hear their thoughts before proceeding down any specific road."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Peter Cowan