Nfld. & Labrador

Quebec blocks N.L. energy development: Williams

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams came out swinging at Quebec in a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa Wednesday, saying the province is trying to block his plans to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams came out swinging at Quebec in a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa Wednesday, saying the province is trying to block his plans to develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

"We would be ideally positioned to be an energy powerhouse and a welcomed competitor in the marketplace," said Williams. "Well, not so — and that is simply due to Hydro-Québec. They now are attempting, once again, to keep our province down."

Williams said Newfoundland and Labrador would have been much wealthier decades ago if it hadn't signed what he argues is an unfair contract that sees Quebec earning more than $1 billion annually reselling power that flows from Labrador.

"It's time that the rest of this country listens up and understands that this is not just about Newfoundland and Labrador," he said. "Our province's longstanding issue with Quebec is about one province's actions purposefully working to deny the economic progression of the whole of eastern Canada, and that most definitely includes Ontario."

The premier said a recent decision by Quebec’s energy regulator is aimed at preventing Newfoundland from moving power through Quebec to North American markets.

Nalcor, Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned energy corporation, has been locked in a dispute with Hydro-Québec over the transmission of power from the $6.5-billion proposed Lower Churchill development in central Labrador.

Hydro-Québec maintains it cannot spare the excess capacity in its existing transmission system to transport power from the Churchill site.

In May, Nalcor filed a complaint with Quebec's energy board arguing that Hydro-Québec wasn't following open access rules that govern the fair use of transmission lines to bring power to market.

However, the regulator dismissed Newfoundland and Labrador's complaint, sparking a political furor at the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature, where Williams termed it a "blatantly incorrect and unjust decision."

In late May, Williams called Quebec's energy regulator a Kangaroo court. Wednesday in Ottawa, he went further and said Quebec is harming Canada internationally.

"Quebec has the gall to criticize and embarrass Canada in Copenhagen for not dealing with climate change while at home, its own policies definitively block green development," he said.

"Quebec's self-interest is harming the provinces, the nation and our country's international reputation."