Pend­ing N.B. re­port on power deal with Que­bec dis­missed sight un­seen by Tories

Cape Breton Post - - BUSINESS - BY KEITH DOUCETTE

The panel is tasked with of­fer­ing ad­vice on whether the pro­posed sale is in the best in­ter­ests of the pub­lic.

It’s since been as­sess­ing the fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions of the deal, its im­pact on New Brunswick’s fu­ture en­ergy sovereignty and its long-term ef­fects on res­i­den­tial power rates.

The re­port was ini­tially ex­pected to be re­leased in mid-Jan­uary, but Ganong warned last month that the panel would need more time be­cause of the deal’s com­plex­ity.

Their rec­om­men­da­tions will be re­leased in the face of mount­ing un­rest over a lack of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion about the pro­posed sale — some­thing Al­ward is do­ing his best to cap­i­tal­ize on with a New Brunswick elec­tion loom­ing in the fall.

“I do not be­lieve (the re­port) will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact one way or the other,” said Al­ward. “They (gov­ern­ment) have lost a tremendous amount of cred­i­bil­ity on de­ci­sions they take be­cause they’ve left peo­ple out of the process.”

Al­ward said he wants the sale dis­sected in pub­lic be­fore an all­party leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment over the week­end pre­fer­ring to wait un­til the panel’s re­port is re­leased pub­licly.

How­ever, David Coon of the New Brunswick Con­ser­va­tion Coun­cil thinks what the panel will have to say is im­por­tant, al­though he ob­jects to an over­all process he said is pro­ceed­ing without a stated pro­vin­cial en­ergy pol­icy.

“My hunch is their fo­cus will largely be on how NB Power should op­er­ate and be organized sub­stan­tive to the deal be­ing ar­ranged rather than as much on the deal it­self, but we’ll see,” he said.

Coon is also crit­i­cal of how the deal was rolled out, al­though he con­cedes the re­cent re­vi­sions are a ma­jor im­prove­ment over the ini­tial $4.7-bil­lion deal signed last Oc­to­ber be­cause the prov­ince is no longer sell­ing NB Power and took trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion off the ta­ble.

“I think (the re­port) will add a new sort of di­men­sion into the dis­cus­sion on, what now?” he said.

Mean­while, en­ergy an­a­lyst Norm Ru­bin of the Toronto-based lobby group En­ergy Probe be­lieves New Brunswick­ers stand to come out ahead in any deal that re­lieves them of a large part of the debt racked up by NB Power.

But as for the panel and any in­sight into the way to pro­ceed, he said there’s sim­ply no blue­print avail­able on the proper re­for­ma­tion of a pro­vin­cial Crown util­ity.

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