Takeover of Island utility is possible, source says
Premier Ghiz isn’t denying talks with Quebec government involve sale of Maritime Electric
A blockbuster deal that will see Hydro-Quebec purchase NB Power may pave the way for a takeover of Maritime Electric, according to a source in the Quebec government.
Even before the multimillion-dollar deal to buy NB Power, the Island’s main electricity source, was made public a report in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail said Hydro-Quebec has also approached Prince Edward Island to strike a similar deal.
CBC New Brunswick also reported that Quebec Premier Jean Charest said his province is “…negotiating with Prince Edward Island to sign a similar agreement.”
Premier Robert Ghiz confirmed he has been in discussions with the Quebec premier since September about purchasing cheaper hydro-generated power from Quebec.
Still, Ghiz would not categorically deny that those talks did not also include discussions about selling Maritime Electric.
Maritime Electric is a privately owned utility. It is owned by New found land-based Fortis.
But the P.E.I. legislature has the power to take control of the privately owned electric utility.
“It’s similar talks in the fact that we’re looking at working in co-operation with the province of Quebec,” Ghiz told reporters on Thursday.
“ We do not have a power utility the same as New Brunswick does. New Brunswick is a huge producer of electricity on their own. Maritime Electric is only a distributor. They do not produce electricity.”
Ghiz said he’s looking at buying cheaper power for P.E.I.
“Maritime Electric is a private company. I can’t sell Maritime Electric so therefore I couldn’t make a commitment like that.”
The deal announced Thursday by New Brunswick and Quebec would see Hydro-Quebec buy most of NB Power’s assets such as transmission lines, offices and most generation facilities, including the Point Lepreau nuclear
power plant, for $4.75 billion. In return, power rates in New Brunswick would be frozen for five years while industrial rates will be cut by as much as 30 per cent to match those in Quebec.
Fred O’Brien, president and CEO of Maritime Electric, said he’s not aware of any talks to sell his company.
But O’Brien also admits he was not aware of the talks between P.E.I. and Quebec to purchase power.
“I know that there’s been nobody approach Maritime Electric or Fortis with respect to our assets,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said he’s encouraged by the talks between the two provinces because it may mean another source of power for Maritime Electric.
Premier Robert Ghiz reacts Thursday to news that NB Power, the Island’s main source of electricity, has been sold to Hydro-Quebec.