Takeover of Is­land util­ity is pos­si­ble, source says

Premier Ghiz isn’t deny­ing talks with Que­bec gov­ern­ment in­volve sale of Mar­itime Elec­tric

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - Front Page - BYWAYNE THI­BODEAU

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.

Guardian photo

Premier Robert Ghiz re­acts Thurs­day to news that NB Power, the Is­land’s main source of elec­tric­ity, has been sold to Hy­dro-Que­bec.

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