2041 can't come quickly enough: N.L. disappointed with Churchill Falls loss at Supreme Court

Premier Dwight Ball is disappointed in today's 7-1 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled Hydro-Québec has no obligation to renegotiate the energy contract.

Millions spent in court challenges

Premier Dwight Ball said he's disappointed, but expected the Supreme Court's decision regarding Churchill Falls. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Today's 7-1 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Hydro-Québec has no obligation to renegotiate the Churchill Falls energy contract is disappointing, says Premier Dwight Ball. 

"The past is the past for us. The decision is the decision. We are disappointed today. Of course, we feel we would like to get more money out of the Upper Churchill, we all know that," Ball said on Friday.

"We've known they've gotten a lot more out of this contract than Newfoundland and Labrador did for years, but we also know that 2041 is coming."

When the energy deal between the two provinces expires in 2041, full control of the hydroelectric project will then be handed over to Churchill Falls Corp.

To date, Quebec has seen close to $28 billion in profit from the deal, which was signed in 1969. However, Newfoundland and Labrador has only profited $2 billion over that time period.

Minister of Natural Resources Siobhan Coady said the province will continue to invest in the hydroelectric project in preparation for the contract's expiry. 

"The assets of the Churchill Falls, we're continuing to update [them], so that we'll have a good asset when 2041 comes," she said. 

"It does take a long time to develop hydroelectric assets. I would imagine the discussions around the Upper Churchill project will begin long in advance of 2041."   

Eight-year legal process

Nalcor Energy said in a media statement that every legal avenue was explored, in both the Quebec court and the Supreme Court of Canada, to ensure Newfoundland and Labrador would benefit from its natural resources. 

"This decision is final and brings to an end an eight-year legal process. We are disappointed with the outcome but will continue to honour the contract and continue to work cooperatively with Hydro-Québec," the statement said.

Siobhan Coady, minister of natural resources, says Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to invest in the Upper Churchill project in preparation for the contract expiry between the province and Quebec in 2041. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Ball predicted that the legal fees over the last eight years will have reached in the millions of dollars.

The process was started by the province's previous government, the premier said, with money set aside in a trust fund specifically for the court challenges.

Good relationship

Both the provincial Liberals and Nalcor Energy said cooperation with Quebec is still imperative. Ball said he has been in contact with François Legault, the premier of Quebec, to ensure the working relationship between both provinces remains co-operative and beneficial to both sides.

"We are both committed to making sure that we can bring future benefits, by working together with other provinces, to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and to his own province as well," Ball said of Legault. 

"We know that working together, we are more competitive."

With files from Katie Breen

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