Monday, 2 November 2009

New Brunswick energy strategy: sell out and hope for the best

The likely sale of New Brunswick Power to Hydro Quebec is a serious blow for Nova Scotia's energy future, and is likely to turn out to be damaging for New Brunswick's long term interests as well.

New Brunswick has been working hard to position itself as an energy hub. With its own renewable energy (mostly wind) coming onstream, its nuclear and fossil plants, and its location close to Nova Scotia's potential vast renewable resources (wind and tidal), Newfoundland's hydro, and New England's huge energy markets, the role of energy hub is a natural fit.

That strategy is being thrown out the window, to the immediate detriment of Maritime sister-provinces and the likely detriment of New Brunsick as well. If this sale goes through, the New Brunswick strategy to become an energy hub will be transformed into the New Brunswick hope that Quebec will make the right decisions for NB's energy future.

On the one hand, snuggling up to a comparative energy giant may be a good move. On the other hand, if push comes to shove in an energy constrained world, who will the government of Quebec look after, Quebec or New Brunswick?

Contrarian makes no bones about this potential disater for Nova Scotia's energy future, but he also doesn't think it is that great a deal for New Brunswick, even in the short term. And to strike to the heart of the matter from the "have-not province" Maritime perspective:
If Quebec can use its windfall profits from Joey Smallwood’s disastrous 1969 deal on Upper Churchill Falls to buy up all the available routes that might get Lower Churchill Falls power to market, you have to wonder whether Canada really is a country any more.

OK, so that's a little extreme. But you have to admit that this is not good for national unity. Quebec fleeces struggling Newfoundlanders for billions and uses those billions to buy up crucial strategic energy resources from other cash-strapped Maritime provinces. The rich use their wealth to get richer and more powerful, and the "have-not" provinces are just supposed to take their handouts and know their place at the bottom of the pecking order.

I'm not sure why this deal gets me so worked up. Nova Scotia has a terrible track record for taking advantage of its renewable energy potential. This deal could make things more challenging, but it is not like we've been doing much to move forward on this anyways. Yet the Dexter government has started to show some signs of life on this issue, and it is a real shame that those efforts have just become that much harder.