Lord in Toronto, NB Power & Immigration

Four quick points this AM.

1. The Liberals are floating the concept of building another nuclear power plant – this time in the Acadian Peninsula. Now, first off, I like the idea of using these large infrastructure projects to support regional development. However, I have been told by an informed source that NB Power’s current problems started with the building of the Belledune plant by the McKenna government. This coal-fired plant was not required to support power needs in New Brunswick and it started NB Power down the road towards a crippling debt load. NB Power now is one of the most debt laden power utilities in North America. And although you will never hear this in the paper, that debt load is as big a contributor to high power rates as the cost of fuel. So back to the Liberals’ proposal. It will have great political resonance – even more than Lord’s 11th hour saving of Lepreau – but at what cost? I hope they have calculated the cost of increasing NB Power’s debt load to an unsustainable level.

2. Also with NB Power, the public intervener (whoever that is) is suggesting that the PUB shift the burden of electricity rate increases from consumers to businesses. Again, this may provide political benefit but it is very short sighted. Don’t forget. Greater Moncton’s second best performing sector from 1991 to 2001 (by employment growth) was the manufacturing sector. Secondly, high power rates have been proven to be a barrier to attracting new manufacturing projects. So, word to the wise, don’t bite the hand that feeds us. I just bought a big old house in downtown Moncton so don’t remind me about what a 16% increase in electricity rates will cost me but I am smart enough to know that if you slowly crush the manufacturing sector – ultimately that will impact me in much broader ways (except for providing fodder for this blog).

3. I read in Sleuth over the weekend that Premier Lord is going to the Economic Club of Toronto this month to make a speech where he will “discuss what his government has done to create “prosperity” in New Brunswick and how he intends to move the province to the next echelon of success. ” I am tempted to fly up there and buy the $1,000 ticket just to figure out what he has done to create all this prosperity in New Brunswick. It would be worth the cost.

4. I spent Saturday night with a group of Brazilians from all over New Brunswick. There were 32 of us (however, there were some Anglo and Franco spouses) all talking in Portuguese, English and French – a mini-multicultural moment right here in Moncton. What I have learned through this experience is that immigrants need a ‘reason’ to stay in a local community like New Brunswick. The historical and family ties that we have are not here so they are much more transient. So the message to the policy makers and those who want to attract (and retain) a slew of new immigrants is this: what will be that ‘reason’? You can marry them all to locals (like me) but that may be a tad impractical – unless we turn New Brunswick into the mail order bride/groom capital of the world (or the Mormon capital). Other reasons? Tenure at U de M and UNB seems to be a reason to stay. Good jobs tend to be a reason immigrants will stay. One thing is for sure. They will not stay here if they perceive it to be offering them a lower quality of life than elsewhere.