New Brunswick Election Thread - Sept 27, 2010

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mtm
New Brunswick Election Thread - Sept 27, 2010

Since the next election to occur in the Atlantic Region is in New Brunswick, I figured I should start a thread to discuss the election, post polls, and talk about NB politics as we head towards the fixed-date election on September 27th

Wiki backgrounder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Brunswick_general_election,_2010

 

Latest Polls (Corporate Research Associates-Aug 29)
Lib (Shawn Graham) - 41%
PC (David Alward) - 35%
NDP (Roger Duguay) - 22%
Grn (Jack MacDougall) - 3%

There are rumours of other polls since this one that are "subscriber only" showing a statistical tie between Lib and PC - but I have only seen them through the grapevine.

Current party seat count:
Lib 33
PC 22
NDP 0
Grn 0

 

Caissa

If I was guessing now I would predict a closer Liberal majority with all of the real contests being in seats where the incumbent isn't running. NB has a history of giving the Premier two terms. The NDP numbers will collapse as we approach the election. They are a result of a NS bump and disattisfaction with Graham and little trust for Alward. The NDP  might take Duguay's seat. Trevor Holder will once more win the riding I live in. He does good constituency work. A family friend who knows I would have to cut off my right hand before I would vote for him. Greens will be fortunate to get 1-2 5 of the vote. Just some random thoughts 11 months out.

mtm

Does anyone on the ground know about nominated candidates?  Talk about running, etc?

moriarty

Haven't heard anything about nominations etc.  22% is pretty darn high, even if it does collapse.

 

I'm new to the province, so perhaps someone could shed a little light on this for me but I perceive the Liberals' move against Early French Immersion (EFE) last year as damaging their support among Francophones.  If I read the unwritten political culture properly, it reads something like this: Francophones have traditionally supported the Liberals and Anglos the Tories.

 

Given the fit that hit the shan last year over EFE, it would seem like the Liberals have damaged their core Francophone support.  Duguay is the NDP's first Francophone leader (?).  If the NDP does a good job of recruiting strong Francophone candidates they might be able to hold onto that 22%.

 

How does this read for those who are in the know about NB politics?

 

I know plenty about NS politics, but little about NB...the curse (blessing?) of living in a border town...

 

 

Caissa

Actually the EFE move damaged support amongst many middle class anglophones. The problem is in NB and with FPP where are they going to take their votes. 1920  with the United farmers and then with the COR party is the only time third parties have gotten traction in the Legislature. The NDP candidates in the House were strong local candidates who would have one regardless of what party they ran for. Front Benches and Backrooms provides some insights into the history of NB's political culture as well as a compilation of all of NB's provincial election results written by Robert Garland. Until the late 60's NB used multi-member ridings based on county.

Stockholm

The New Brunswick NDP could have a real opportunity. The Liberal NB government is probably the most rightwing provincial government in canada and they have gone on a neo-con rampage of spending cuts and privatization and P3s etc...it could be a perfect ingredient for the NDP to make a breakthrough.

mtm

Well, moriarty, the problem with generalities is "not exactly".

I wouldn't say that Francophones don't support the Tories...Remember Bernard Lord, of course.  Just as in the English communities, support seems to ebb and flow between the two major parties.  There are strong PC's and strong Liberals in both linguistic communities.

Duguay is running in the riding of Tracadie-Sheila against a Conservative incumbent who was a backbencher in Lord's government.  That is of course included in the Federal riding of Yvon Godin, a folk-hero of the North Shore.  His support is basically all personal - it has historically not translated to NDP support provincially (nor even federal support in neighboring ridings).  I get the sense that Godin is working closely with Duguay - he was at his nomination meeting.  That will be an important association.

As for your comments about French Immersion...yes that was a bit of a blight on the Lib government.  They also played with people's sentiments by trying to close UNBSJ (turning it into a polytechnic to train skilled trades workers - an idea loved by the Irving "Energy Hub" interests), which riled up the people of Saint John to the point of holding several huge rallies in favour of the university.  Not to mention the Liberal move to close several rural Saint John River ferry services.  On both the university and the ferries, the government backed off on their threats under public pressure, and settled for minor incremental changes in the (right wing) direction they were looking for.  Perhaps this is what they were seeking all along...

moriarty

Okay, that all helps.  But how can we say the NDP support will collapse?  What's the history of that?  I'm orignally from Ontario where 22% is a near impossibility.  If Horwath and the bunch had numbers that high right now there'd be danicing in the streets.

 

What's the logic behind saying that will collapse?

Caissa

The history is that the NDP has never polled near these numbers before in NB. It's vote parking.

Stockholm

I suspect that people expect that support to melt away for the same reasons we all expect the Green party to get no where near the 10-11% of the national vote some polls give them. At this point in time the provincial NDP in NB has no MLAs, no money, no organization, very few members etc...in a federal election the NDP can get 20% across NB because they can get 60% of the vote in Godin's riding which is one tenth of the province and get a respectable share of the vote elsewhere because the national NDP is much less of a "fringe party" than the NDP is seen as provincially.

All that may change next time. I tend to think that 22% right now is the size of the NB NDP "universe" to win their universe they would need candidates in every riding, a reasonably well-funded campaign, a leader who gains credibility and lots of volunteers knocking on doors etc...where they will have all those ingredients remains to be seen.

mtm

Ah, good question!

I guess the thing is that the historic level of support for the NDP is around 10% - and never much more.  In 2006, faced with the resignation of Elizabeth Weir, the popular Leader (and only MLA), organization and support for the party kind of well, collapsed.  The replacement leader turned out to be weak, unilingual, and low on resources which culminated in a dismal 5.1% popular vote.  To highlight the peril - a few ridings didn't even have candidates.

I think there's a tendency to say that the 22% is illusory because, well, they've never been there before.  It is uncharted territory. But there's real excitement at those numbers and I think with a strong leader like Duguay, it may not collapse.  The convention in Miramichi this past weekend was their largest ever, and Duguay received 100% on his leadership review.

moriarty

Doesn't sound very optimistic.  However, vote parking is a strategy used by the Greens very effectively.  The assumption of the support of the apathetic is a major reason they are as successful as they are today.

 

How many times have we heard "I'll just vote Green, it doesn't matter anyway..."  Are we saying the same is the case for the NBNDP right now?  I don't think so.  The NDP brand is far less enigmatic than the Green brand.  If people we're going to 'park', they wouldn't choose such a well defined space.

moriarty

I like the 'universe' comparison.  Well I already have my Zero-G training, so I'll definitely head out into space when the time comes to help out.  At 22% the national party is going to start paying attention...hopefully.  This means more money, and the best outside organizers in the country will be descending on poor unsuspecting Riding Associations that have been running with one and two members for the last 30 years.

Caissa

I'm willing to predict now that the NDP will get between 10-15% of the popular vote and elect one MLA.

The NDP brand in NB is almost as enigmatic, Moriarty, as the Green brand is nationally.

moriarty

ooohhh...Predictions...Smile

 

 

Paul Castle interviewed a Mt. Allison prof a couple of days after the NS election to ask what he thinks the NDP needs to do in NB to come even close to the success of the NSNDP.  This guy's answer was that NB's political divide is Franco/Anglo as oppsed to the NS divide of Rural/Urban.  Whatever party is successful in NB is able to appeal to both populations, and if the NDP can manage to do that they'll do well.

 

 

mtm

What riding are you in, moriarty?  If you don't want to say in public forum, I'd understand.  Just curious.  I'll tell you what I've heard and who I may know.

moriarty

mtm, sent it to you in PM

mtm

thanks!  replied.

mtm

I do have another question to ask of Rabble.

Here in NB there is only one polling company that does regular public polling, Corporate Research Associates, and their reputation and connections are spotty at best.  The fact that CEO Don Mills is a member of the AIMS board doesn't exactly make me think his wholly-owned polling company has much accountability to the public.

I know some more mainstream and non-regional pollsters do polls quite regularly, but they only ever get leaked when it serves one party or the other's interests (An internal tory poll by someone, perhaps Nanos(?) that showed Tories with a brief and fleeting lead and it was made public by a "source").

I heard recently from a source I have no reason to doubt that a new poll puts the Libs and PC in a statistical dead heat, and puts the NDP as high as 25% in NB.  Are there any blogs out there that have pollster subscriptions or access that let it slip?  Have you seen other polls reported?

I would just like to know.  CRA doesn't deserve to be the "source" on NB polling, it would be nice to have a consistent cross-reference.

adma

mtm wrote:

Well, moriarty, the problem with generalities is "not exactly".

I wouldn't say that Francophones don't support the Tories...Remember Bernard Lord, of course. 

Or, for that matter, Bernard Valcourt.

Somehow, I'm tempted to read more seat-winning promise into those NDP numbers; and yes, as with Yvon Godin, it might in practice be a regional "Bloc Acadien" thing...

Yibpl

moriarty wrote:

Okay, that all helps.  But how can we say the NDP support will collapse?  What's the history of that?  I'm orignally from Ontario where 22% is a near impossibility.  If Horwath and the bunch had numbers that high right now there'd be danicing in the streets.

 

What's the logic behind saying that will collapse?

Traditionally, the anglos split their vote roughly 60/40 and the francophone tend to vote on mass for whichever party they perceive as going to deliver more pork-barrel goodies.  (The CoR Party anomaly was mentioned above.)  The Maritimes does have a strong cargo-cult culture, which I suspect has been strengthened by years of out-migration.  That culture, combined with the Liberals’ cuts, arrogance, and mismanagement might just give the NDP a window of opportunity; especially with the NDP being legitimized by their win in NS.   As well, New Brunswickers tend to like to have a different party in Government Provincially then they have Federally (thus if you are out of favour with one party you can still hope for patronage from the other).  So with the Conservatives in power Federally, if there is a desire to get rid of the Liberals, that only leaves one other viable option.

 

Stockholm

"the francophone tend to vote on mass for whichever party they perceive as going to deliver more pork-barrel goodies"

Then how does Yvan Godin get elected?

Caissa

Strong local candidate. Every NDPer elected in NB at either level has been such. They win regardless of the brand.

Yibpl

Stockholm wrote:

"the francophone tend to vote on mass for whichever party they perceive as going to deliver more pork-barrel goodies"

Then how does Yvan Godin get elected?

Smile

 Perceive is the important word.  "They put me skidder to work so I could get enough stamps for de EI", and "Dey give me son/daughter a job flaggin so s/he would have enough stamps for de EI" are often heard phrases right before elections in certain key areas.  Promising the moon (somewhat plausibly) and greasing the skids a bit before an election is an art form well developed by any successful politician in New Brunswick.

 

 

Caissa

We won't even start on politics of road paving.

mtm

There's something else to add about the uniqueness of NB politics (and by proxy the difficulty the NDP has here)

In 2006, the Tories raised over $1M and the Libs about $640K in CORPORATE donations alone.  This is an amazingly huge amount of money to run full provincial campaigns in a province of approx 700,000 people.  Its IMPOSSIBLE to compete with that kind of warchest, time and time again.

Of these donations, you can look down the list (don't worry, in NB it would never be publicly available, you have to request it in advance, and go to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer in Fredericton IN PERSON to pick it up) and it is largely donations from each and every small and large paving, construction, engineering, and architectural firm in the entire province.  This gets to the root of the "Politics of Paving" - its not just parties buying votes by paving roads...its the paving and construction companies buying the parties that are buying the votes.

A whole lot of these companies, in fact the majority I'd say, give to both parties, just in case.  In NB, you hedge your bets!

A part of me wonders why the NDP wouldn't send a letter to all the hundreds of these companies there are out there and say "in the interests of fairness, why wouldn't you give to us too?".  But I know that's against the NDP's core principles, and only contributes to the problem.  Not to mention that it would be a collosal waste of time as every letter would end up in the trash.

But you begin to wonder, when Atcon gets a government loan in the millions and then proceeds to seek creditor protection with our money, and the fact comes to light that both parties received donations from them (it is owned by Liberal Crony Robbie Tozer), it doesn't raise an eyebrow in the media...
What gives?

Stockholm

I have to say that I find this to be borderline racist:

"Perceive is the important word.  "They put me skidder to work so I could get enough stamps for de EI", and "Dey give me son/daughter a job flaggin so s/he would have enough stamps for de EI" are often heard phrases right before elections in certain key areas. "

mtm

Unfortunately, Stockholm, that's a very ingrained NB characteristic too.  We're talking about a place where the CoR Party, ostensibly an 'anti-bilingualism', but really an 'anti-Francophone' activist group, won 8 seats in 1991 on a wave of Anglo indignation and self-righteousness.  Thankfully, in time they were exposed as the raving bigots that they were, but their carcass remains as the "Anglo Society of NB" and rears its ugly head in the form of protestors at Acadian Days parades and events as well as at other public gatherings.

This undercurrent that hides beneath the surface in NB kind of reminds me of the BNP to be honest...a radical group that legitimizes holding unpopular (and unpalatable) views.  There's no official party anymore, but that 20.7% of people that voted CoR are mostly still out there, you know?  Its concerning.

Caissa

I'll grant you Stockholm that Yibpl could have chosen better phraseology. The sentiment is a common in many areas of the province both anglophone and francophone. Since Yvon Godin's riding was being spoken of Yibpl used a dialect reminiscent of that region that would be recognizable to most New Brunswickers.

mtm

I love it when the seasons change.

 

And on Sunday, it was the official opening of Election Season in New Brunswick.  The governing Liberals nominated their first candidate of many more to come in Dieppe Centre-Lewisville...

http://timestranscript.canadaeast.com/search/article/824834 - The meeting confirming Roger Melanson as the candidate was held this past Sunday.

 

Enjoy the next 10 months of this.  I've also heard there will be an NDP nomination meeting in the Saint John area very soon.

Caissa

The Tories have also chosen their candidate in Saint John Lancaster to run against incumbent, Abel Leblanc. The Tory had a letter in the T-J the other day but I neglected to read it or note his name.

mtm

I had heard that Abel may not run again.  He has been left on the outside in this gov't since his relationship with labour and social justice background dont exactly mesh with the NB Liberal "Big Business First" mantra.  He's been rumoured to have been frustrated by a lot of the decisions of his party colleagues.

Roly McIntyre in SJE definitely is not re offering due to health.

Yibpl

Stockholm wrote:

I have to say that I find this to be borderline racist:

...

 

Sorry, I was mocking my own (and I would like to think former) anglo/rural accent.  The greasing the skids in the weeks before an election tactic unfortunately seems to work all too well in both linguistic communities.

 

Caissa

Local CBC Radio just announced that Charest and Graham will announce in Fredericton tomorrow that NB Power is being sold to Hydro Quebec. We'll see how this one plays out since Dany Williams has already weighed in as being against it.

mtm

David Alward (PC Leader) has laid out 3 contingent requirements for a sale - essentially supporting it in principle, while the NB NDP has come out strongly opposed to selling off our public utility to another Province:

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/10/28/nb-quebec-nbpowe...

 

 

"New Democratic Party Leader Roger Duguay released a statement Wednesday saying the party is firmly against dealing NB Power to Hydro-Québec.

"We are tired of secret deals cooked up by Shawn Graham and his friends. We need to keep the power in New Brunswick, and New Brunswick in charge of NB Power," Duguay said.

"Shawn Graham promised he would keep NB Power public; none of us knew that when he said 'in public hands' he was talking about the public of Quebec."

bouchecl

mtm wrote:

"New Democratic Party Leader Roger Duguay released a statement Wednesday saying the party is firmly against dealing NB Power to Hydro-Québec.

"We are tired of secret deals cooked up by Shawn Graham and his friends. We need to keep the power in New Brunswick, and New Brunswick in charge of NB Power," Duguay said.

"Shawn Graham promised he would keep NB Power public; none of us knew that when he said 'in public hands' he was talking about the public of Quebec."

Good politics, but bad economics from Mr. Duguay. NB Power has been a perpetual money-loser for the province in the last decade at least (remember the Orimulsion debacle and the delays in the refurbishing of the Point Lepreau reactor).Their generation infrastructure is old, they still rely too much on oil and coal and their rates are way too expensive for consumers and industries.

Now, say what you will, but Hydro-Québec is a well-run Crown corporation, with plenty of cash, loads of cheap renewable surplus power and an established track record in the field. If the goal is to get a steady supply of electricity to New Brunswickers at a (more) reasonable price and a massive reduction in GHG emissions from electricity,  then Hydro-Québec is the only game in town.

There will be problems I'm sure. I expect plant closures (Dalhousie, Coleson Cove, Belledune) and layoffs, and I think Mr. Duguay and the provincial NDP should focus on that issue as a priority.

As for Danny Williams, his meddling is pretty despicable. He's basically exploiting the same kind of fear and ignorance used during the heyday of the Confederation of Regions party in the early nineties.

mtm

I see what you're saying, but I have found a full copy of the NDP Press release today, and it addresses the fact that the reason for NB Power bleeding is because of successive governments mismanaging the file.

Its also the manner in which these negotiations took place - with no transparency or accountability to the people.  Now they are going to bring to the people a plan that they didn't even know was being concocted, and surely appeared in no Liberal campaign or throne speeches!

 

-------------------------------------------------------

Roger Duguay: "Keep the power in New Brunswick, and New Brunswick in charge of NB Power"

For Immediate Release

OCTOBER 28, 2009

FREDERICTON - New Democratic Party Leader Roger Duguay said only the NDP stands 100% against the sale of NB Power to Hydro Quebec. Speaking to newly-elected party officers in Fredericton, Duguay said. "We are tired of secret deals cooked up by Shawn Graham and his friends. We need to keep the power in New Brunswick, and New Brunswick in charge of NB Power."

"Shawn Graham promised he would keep NB Power public- none of us knew that when he said 'in public hands' he was talking about the public of Quebec!"

Duguay noted that Conservative Leader David Alward is doing what Tories always do in opposition, making positive statements but leaving loopholes open to justify future inaction. When Alward questions whether the deal could be torn up after it was signed, he's not doing his job as opposition leader, Duguay charged.

Newly-elected NDP President Leigh Sprague said, "When the people of New Brunswick elect New Democrats to the Legislature next September we will vote against this sale. If it's been passed, we will introduce legislation to tear it up. That's our promise to the people of this province. This deal is wrong."

"The Liberals and Conservatives have run NB Power into the ground, using it as a dumping ground for political appointments one year, and a cash cow the next, to fund their pet projects," said Sprague. "The NDP will take responsibility for our province's problems, not outsource them to other provinces."

"I call on every New Brunswicker to contact their Liberal or Tory MLA and to say no to this sale. This deal can be stopped before it's signed. Otherwise, as Jack Keir said, we will have the biggest debate this province has ever seen. And he and the Graham Liberals will lose that debate."

The New Democrats have been polling at 22% in recent opinion surveys and are preparing an aggressive 2010 election campaign under the leadership of Duguay and a new generation of activists elected at the Party's recent convention in Miramichi.

Caissa

Quebec and New Brunswick have reached a proposed deal that would see Hydro-Québec buy the majority of NB Power's assets for $4.8 billion.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced the historic deal in Fredericton on Thursday, concluding a week of speculation.

The deal is contingent on legislative approval in New Brunswick.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/10/29/nb-power-sale.html

moriarty

As CBC NB continues to flog the Power Deal story--inventing new angles and stories almost hourly--the Comments sections seem rife with claims that people will be voting NDP next September, and it's not coming from the usual suspects.

 

How do we make sure Roger and the Team see this kind of stuff?

mtm

moriarty, Roger and crew are well aware.

 

Our angle:  The Conservative mismanagement paved the way for a sale, and the Liberals followed through on their groundwork (dividing the utility into 5 separate entities backs this up).

Besides, Alward can't pretend to be protecting NB Power after this horrible interview just before the deal was announced.  His now emphatic NO to this deal says nothing about how he wouldn't just turn around and sell to someone else, or to HQ for marginally more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMEWDlkUKVM

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Williams lashes out at Quebec-N.B. power deal

 

excerpt:

 

Newfoundland and Labrador has been preparing to develop a hydroelectric mega-project on Labrador's Churchill River for years. It intends to sell some of the power generated there to the northeastern U.S. states and had been hoping to negotiate a deal with New Brunswick to transport the power via that province instead of through Quebec.

Williams said Thursday that Quebec will not block the province from selling power to the U.S.

"[The Lower Churchill project ] will be developed, and it will be developed on our terms, and as I've said before, over my dead body am I going to hand this over to Jean Charest and Quebec."

(bolding emphasis mine)

 

ETA: the "comments" section has a lot of really passionate stuff against this deal.

Caissa

Energy Minister Jack Keir acknowledges the immediate public reaction from the provincial government's plan to sell NB Power to Hydro-Québec has been negative.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/11/03/nb-keir-deal-rea...

Caissa

Saint John Mayor Ivan Court is predicting that power rates in the province's largest city will go down if the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Québec is approved.

Saint John Energy is one of three municipal utilities in the province, and it purchases power directly from NB Power at a wholesale price, which means its customers pay less than homeowners elsewhere.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/11/04/nb-saint-john-energy-court-527.html
Coincidentally, the Mayor is a Liberal.

bouchecl

NB Power has never been a particularly well-run utility and successive management teams and governments consistently made bad calls with regards to power generation, going back to the late 60s, early 70s.

For instance, Coleson Cove was built between 1972 and 1976 (Oil crisis? what crisis?). Lepreau, the biggest captal project in New Brunswick's history, was given the go ahead when interest on bonds went through the roof. It came late and way over-budget. Belledune was supposed to cost $400M. The final price was twice as much, but no worries: the minister then in charge of the utility got 100 jobs in his riding.And I haven't talked about the alkali-aggregate reaction problem shortening the expected useful life of Mactaquac, New Brunswick's largest hydro dam.

Fast forward to the early 2000. They knew very well that Lepreau would need to be shutdown for a mid-life refurb, but they had no money to build replacement capacity. Instead they chose to upgrade Coleson Cove to burn Orimulsion, without checking first if they could secure a long term supply of the heavy bitumen. And now the Lepreau refurb... they bet the farm in believing AECL overly-optimistic schedule. It's not too bad when a single station accounts for a few % of total supply (as in Quebec or Ontario), but Lepreau is one quarter of NB Power's generation! Maybe they tought they could run the oil generators a bit more, but at $147/barrel in July 2008, the cost was simply prohibitive. And until a few months ago, they were talking about a second nuke at Lepreau? What are they smoking?

On the demand side, the average New Brunswick residential customer uses 16,372 kWh/year, almost as much as their Quebec neighbour and they convert to baseboard heating at the same rate, but there is a difference. In New Brunswick, instead of cheap and clean hydro, they burn oil and coal to generate half the electrons. Have they heard of thermodynamics? And let's talk about rates. A 28% rate increase in the last 5 years and a rate structure that penalizes energy efficiency (the marginal cost of power decreases for heavy users) is par for the course at NB Power, where they don't have to justify a 3% annual rate increase before the EUB. When you're in a hole, stop digging, for heaven's sake!

New Brunswickers have every right to be angry at their utility, but it let them down long ago. In my book, the $4.75B Hydro-Québec offer looks like a pretty good deal for this clunker. They can guarantee a stable supply of cleaner energy while removing fossil fuel volatility from the power equation. And the rate stabilization program (I don't like the huge price differential between industrial and residential relief, and that should be open to discussion) is the icing on the cake.

In a nutshell, unless there is a way to fix the structural problems at NB Power now -- something nearly impossible under the current set of circumstances, the province would be better off with a new power company. An early election or referendum won't solve a thing, there is no alternate buyer in the marketplace, as far as I know and a federal bailout would be like throwing money away, if there is no fundamental change in the way NB Power is run. And no, changing the current management (or cutting bonuses) won't do a thing. It's been tried before.

Mr. Duguay and NDP should rather find ways to improve the HQ deal: ask a better split of the benefits among residential, commercial and industrial customers (but forget about rate parity with Quebec, it's not going to happen), keep the distribution division under the control of the New Brunswick government, demand a significant investment commitment and a 10-year supply plan from HQ in order to transition to a more sustainable model with a much larger share for renewables... The little "beavers" at Hydro-Québec live to build stuff anyway.

Both Liberals and Tories know they can't fix it. Alward plays the easy political game here, but he would probably do the same deal or worse. I fervently hope the NDP will find ways to help the little guy.

PS: As for Danny Williams, he doesn't have any power to sell as of 2010. His Lower Churchill project will not generate a single kWh, assuming he can stop whining for a moment and agree to the established open access transmission tariff in force to wheel electricity through Quebec.

mtm

The devil of this deal is in the details.

First of all, it is basically giving it away for the value of the debt.  But worse than that, Lepreau is so far behind schedule and will have significant cost overruns (Harper will not give them a cent) - and HQ said that NB is on the hook anyway for those costs, which could be over a billion anyway.

The way the deal went down is completely wrong too.  There was no consultation and no warning.  That's fine for a sale of a private corporation in a competitive marketplace, but NB'ers were blindsided by this deal that took place in Liberal backrooms in Que and Fredericton.  The Liberals had no measure of authority to do this deal behind the backs of people without even discussing it as an option.

To the assertion that they should try to 'sweeten the deal'.  I think the point here is that Alward and the Tories are already going to do that.  The day the deal was leaked, Alward wouldn't articulate a position until he'd 'had all the details'.  The bumbling interview i posted a while back shows that he would consider selling NB Power.  They have only articulated that they would oppose this deal, and have hammered away at the bad aspects of it.  They can then turn around and say they were given a 'mandate' to seek a better deal.

When you're the NDP in a province where your major stakeholder is Labour, and where the court of public opinion is stringently against any such backroom dealings, you don't play those games of semantics.  Duguay has a clear position on this one, and it is the only one that is identifiable.  Make NB Power work.  That may mean an end to the megaprojects, and the self sufficiency nonsense, and a focus on core business, distribution, and smaller scale sustainable energy (Green Energy Hub would be nice).

Lets face it.  NB Power's problems go back to Tory and Liberal mismanagement that invested in electorally-friendly but highly expensive and economically-challenged generation plants in strategic ridings.  They were also the patronage appointment capital of government, where any semi-connected gov mla could schmooze his neice or nephew a plum position without attracting too much ire.  But lets not lose focus:  Successive PC and Liberal abuse led to this, and now they are selling it as a failed project.  They need to be held accountable not only for failing, but for then throwing out the carcass and not making any valiant attempt at running the province well.

Most of the other provinces have managed to run decently efficient power companies.  NB is no different - there is no sense in saying it can't be done because you are essentially subscribing to the argument that NB is not capable of running its own affairs.  The thing about selling it off is that it becomes permanent.  There is no going back.  The benefits of this deal are short term in nature, with unidentifiable benefits long term. 

Besides, 5B on a debt the size of NB's isn't going to make a heck of a lot of difference.  Especially when you throw away that very lucrative revenue stream that is consistent.  Its even worse when you consider a good percentage of that will be eaten up by cost overruns at lepreau and the decommissioning at the fossil fuel fired plants.  NB Power was paying on its portion of the debt.  With more efficiency, a clearer strategy, and an end to neoliberal energy-export management practices, NB Power can still be in good shape.  There's no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Roger Duguay has the right argument on this one - and it is one that is in tune with public sentiment.  I think that this is a no brainer for the NDP, and it reflects the will of the membership, which is what parties should strive to do anyway.  Anything less would be selling ourselves short.

bouchecl

MTM, I don't have a problem making the Libs and Cons accountable and I've lived in New Brunswick for a dozen years, so I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the rampant favoritism. Is NB Power beyond repair? Not yet, but it is moving in that direction.

But the recriminations and condemnations won't solve the #1 issue: the need to replace 1,400 MW of fossil-fired generation in the next decade, because the plants are old, polluting and they are just cost too costly to run. So what options does New Brunswick have?

A second CANDU in Saint John? Too pricey. Energy efficiency and substituting electricity by natural gas in southern NB? That's obviously part of the solution, but it's no panacea. Another natural gas plant in the south? Cheap to build, but it exposes the utility to the volatility of the natural gas market.

Setting up dozens of wind farms across the province? I read the Danish report and I wasn't convinced by their grand plan to setup 4,500 MW by 2025. Yet another "energy hub" chimera? How long would it take to set this plan in motion? 40 environmental processes, some promoters would fail to raise enough capital (it happened a few times in the Maritimes in the last year) and you end up with private business owning the generation plants anyway.

Tidal: Experimental, but there is some potential there as long as you can find capital to finance the projects. More hydro: Expensive, but there is a potential for growth at Nepisiguit Falls and Grand Falls.

Each and every option above require massive investments, billions, in the next decade. And that's where debt issue comes in. The current (March 31, 2008) book value of plants, property and equipment is $3.502B, the long-term debt (including debentures and the debt expiring in 08-09) is $3.176B and the equity is at $351M. In practice this means the company  has to borrow 90¢ of every dollar needed to make repairs, invest in new transmission and distribution and do the things a modern utility needs to do in order to serve its customers reliably. And this was BEFORE Lepreau's shutdown. There will come a time (pretty soon) when the value of plant, property and equipment will be lower than long-term debt incurred to acquire these assets.

I am a firm believer of state intervention in the economy, but it has to be done right. Looking at the numbers and reading the papers about NB Power various moves in the past few years is worrisome. I know my view is pretty unpopular (for many different reasons), but I think Hydro-Québec is the right suitor to straighten up the electric system in New Brunswick. They have expertise, money to spend and extra power to sell. But, if the people of New Brunswick think they don't need help or if they think they'll get a better deal elsewhere, so be it.

mtm

Who says we have to replace that dirty energy.  Once Lepreau is back on, we have more than enough energy to serve all of NB, and then some.  Only this expansionist energy export model has broken NB Power.  If it went back and focused on what it's supposed to do - provide affordable electricity for NB'ers - then it can be viable.  NB Power should be involved in the research and trials being done on tidal power that NS is doing, and they should be closely aligned with that province in order to take advantage of the bay of fundy and its potential.  The fact we have no substantive wind energy initiative in NB is inexcusable as well.

The debt is not at all crippling.  They are making money as it is, and its been touted as a red herring to try and justify this deal.  The province can handle the autonomous debt of NB Power if they stop treating NB power as a replacement for the social safety net and use it to create make work projects instead of providing real assistance and economic development to economically disadvantaged areas.  Not to mention that they could make it much more profitable if they actually charged industry a rate that reflected the cost of production instead of providing subsidized power and giving into their threats of departure.  They are not going to leave all that infrastructure and market power behind for something as trivial as power rates - call their bluff.  There have been studies showing that the Irving competitive advantage is down to labour and the fact that people will take less to stay in Atlantic Canada.  They could ship all their plants to Lower Canada, but then they would have to pay all that money to build the plant, then have to pay national equilibrium wages (Irving jobs are paid about 15-20% less than national average for same work).  The interest and financing and labour costs alone would eat any marginal decrease in power bills, which is just one input.

Selling off our utility to a crown corporation of another province is not only bad politics, its bad policy.  H-Q will never have the best interests of NB in mind - its just a bad deal on so many levels.  Its a deal that shouldn't be done at any price, but especially at this price is a huge steal, and akin to selling the shirt off NB'er's backs!

bouchecl

mtm, check your numbers, that's not what NB Power says in its 2007-2008 annual report. On page 61, the report states the following numbers for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008:

Hydro: 2.7 TWh

Coal/Petcoke: 3.2 TWh

Heavy Fuel oil: 2.5 TWh

Nuclear: 3.9 TWh

Purchases: 2.9 TWh

Once Lepreau is back, New Brunswick will have secured 8.7 TWh (3 TWh hydro + ±5TWh nuclear) of non-carbon generation, plus whatever the two wind farms generate (200 MW @ 35% = ±0.7 TWh). The province will need an extra 5-6 TWh (considering normal transmission and distribution losses).

Caissa

New Brunswick industry would get about $200 million more than residents during the first five years of the proposed deal between NB Power and Hydro-Québec, CBC has learned.

The province's Liberal government has repeatedly asserted that the deal would benefit big business and ordinary ratepayers equally.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2009/11/05/nb-nbpower-indus...

mtm

It sucks to be a Liberal MLA this week. In week one of the deal, the Premier was going around telling everyone that individuals would see 60% of the savings under the deal...

Within the end of the week the CBC and others were starting to say, "wait a minute, where'd you get that from?" To which Energy Minister Jack Kier had to say, "I don't know but I'll go check" and came back with new numbers that suggested that 78% of the savings were actually going to industry, with no word of where the Premier's original numbers had been derived.

There are now 22,000 people on a facebook group opposed to the deal - a somewhat inflated indicator, but when you consider that the group the government created to tout the deal was removed due to the level of backlash, that the Liberals are in very tough to stem this barrage in popular opinion before 2010 - a contest that was already supposed to be neck and neck. This has led people to speculate that Graham had better have secured himself a spot on the BoD for Hydro Quebec in the deal if he would like continued employment.

However, as a negative consequence of this deal, it seems to have cleared just about every issue off the board, and the PC's (who initially wouldn't say no to the deal) have realized the enormous potential of actually opposing it. This has completely changed the game as they have the resources and networks to spin back - despite the fact their previous government was seen as a threat to privatize the utility - which was a factor in Graham being elected in 2006! Ah the short memory of the electorate.

Anyway, what this has done to the polls is anyone's guess. I'm looking forward to the next numbers - whenever they come out.

In other news, the first NDP candidate will be nominated tomorrow - Sandy Harding in Saint John East. She's an education support worker and president of her CUPE local that was very high profile during negotiations with the Province for Librarians and Support Staff - and who was once again front and centre when the Graham Gov't initially laid off a bunch of them, only to relent and engage in much smaller cuts due to their largely successful media campaign.

JaneyCanuck JaneyCanuck's picture

TheNB Power deal will kil the Liberals channces - maybe, depends how they sell it. I so hope they do not do this!

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