After well over 100 comments (many of which were not publishable), the lines are pretty well drawn on this NB Power issue. I have read hundreds of tweets as well on this issue. There are basically four groups of viewpoints:
1. Those that are in agreement with the broad strokes of the deal but want some of the short strokes better fleshed out (I am in this camp).
2. Those that have legitimate concerns about the deal and have thought it through and still believe in the long term it is not good for New Brunswick.
3. Those that have reflexively decided they are against the deal without really thinking it through at all.
Those in the first camp agree that all things being equal it is better to have the ultimate decision making about your electricity generation, grid and services be made in the province. We also agree that there is a direct economic development issue related to the jobs associated with generation and support services. We realize some of these jobs are in jeopardy under the HQ deal but on balance we think that NB Power is not a sustainable model as is and that something needed to be done.
The second camp needs to be convinced by those that advocate on behalf of this deal. All I can say is that each of the legitimate points should be addressed. You won’t change the position of many of them but at least rationality will be injected into the process. In addition, they will realize that a lot of thoughtful people were involved in this process and poured over thousands of pages of actuarial tables to come up with the model (I talked to an old friend in the Dept. of Energy). These folks still may not agree but maybe those that feel this was a back of the napkin deal that wasn’t thought through will realize there was actually serious deliberation. I still think the second camp needs to run their reservations through the filter of other alternatives. It is easy to be against something but not so easy to find something to support. I have a hard time believing that anyone really believes that NB Power as currently constituted was on a path to sustained competitive rates, reduced debt and significant new investments in new clean generation.
The third camp needs to look at the facts. They still may end up not liking the deal but at least it won’t be based on their dislike of Jean Charest’s hair or the deal that Joey Smallwood struck with HQ 40 years ago. I suspect that one of the main reasons there was so much forward actuarial analysis of this deal was precisely to avoid the Smallwood situation. Nova Scotia Power is owned by a TSX-traded firm as is Maritime Electric and Newfoundland Power (Not Hydro). This issue of constitutional rights or sovereignty is a bit of a red herring – if we are being honest about this. The electricity market will still be regulated by the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board and – as stated in the MOU and they will be developing the “circumstances under which either party will be entitled to unwind the transaction.
The fourth camp I don’t know what to say. You are bound up in anger and frustration that isn’t tied to this arrangement. You are using this situation as a proxy for a wider concern.