N.S., N.L. exploring way to ship power to U.S. that would avoid N.B.

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Concerns over access to the lucrative and energy-hungry markets south of the border have led Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to consider alternative ways of shipping electricity that would bypass New Brunswick, Premier Darrell Dexter said Wednesday.
The two provinces are worried the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec could prevent them from shipping electricity from a potential hydro project in Labrador and tidal power from the Bay of Fundy through New Brunswick.
"That's why the question of transmission is so important," said Dexter following a speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
"If there becomes a problem at the New Brunswick border, you have to look at the alternatives. You're not going to rule out anything."
One of those options could include the construction of at least 200 kilometres of underwater cables that would cross the Strait of Belle Isle, Cabot Strait and Bay of Fundy to New England, in addition to transmission lines on land.
New Brunswick has repeatedly rebuffed demands by Dexter and Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador to guarantee in writing their ability to wheel their power through its borders if the proposed sale is finalized.
Earlier this week, New Brunswick Finance Minister Greg Byrne said they were prepared to talk to their neighbours about building new transmission facilities. But he said he would not issue a "carte blanche" letter committing them to something that's not in their best interests.
Dexter said he's not sure where that leaves his province's interests.
"They take the position that what we're asking for already exists, but we feel differently about that," he said.
"We raised the question because we feel it's a fair ask."
As Dexter was speaking in Halifax, a rally of those opposed to the sale was held in Moncton, N.B., that featured academics and organized labour leaders.
The group Coalition of New Brunswickers: NB Power Not For Sale was introduced during a day-long summit at a hotel.
Tom Mann, executive director of the New Brunswick Union, is co-ordinating the coalition. He likened the importance of the sale of NB Power to the province's decision to join Confederation in 1867.
"Here we are, faced with a challenge issued by the existing government, that they are going to sell off a Crown utility that is owned by the taxpayers of New Brunswick, with tremendous amounts of uncertainty as to its long-term implications not only for residents of New Brunswick, but for small businesses," Mann said.
"This issue has excited people. It has really offended their sense of what is fair and just in this province."
Unions in New Brunswick are worried about the possibility of future job cuts if coal-fired plants in Dalhousie, Courtenay Bay and Grand Lake are shut down under the deal with Hydro-Quebec.
Labour groups in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador argue that ceding control to Hydro-Quebec would limit the ability of their provinces to develop new power sources and sell it to the U.S.
CUPE official Wayne Lucas travelled all the way from Newfoundland to be at the Moncton event.
Lucas is worried about the impact the sale of NB Power might have on Newfoundland's Lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric project, since the province had hoped to transmit the power to the U.S. via Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
"If they do go ahead with that deal, what it means for Newfoundland is that Quebec has another stranglehold on Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.
If approved, the agreement would see Hydro-Quebec buy NB Power assets such as transmission lines, offices and most generation facilities, including the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant.
It would also relieve New Brunswick of its debt-laden utility as well as freeze residential rates for five years and reduce industrial rates by as much as 30 per cent in some cases - an arrangement Byrne says is worth another $5.5 billion in savings.

Organizations: NB Power, Hydro-Quebec, Halifax Chamber of Commerce Coalition of New Brunswickers New Brunswick Union CUPE

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, U.S. Nova Scotia HALIFAX Bay of Fundy Moncton New England Dalhousie Courtenay Bay Grand Lake Lower Churchill Falls Quebec

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