Quebec pours cold water on talk NB Power deal might be open to renegotiation

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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QUEBEC - The Quebec government says it has no plans to renegotiate a deal to buy New Brunswick's power utility, dismissing suggestions the multibillion-dollar agreement remains a work in progress.
Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau quashed talk of renegotiation as she exited a cabinet meeting Monday.
"That's not on our radar screen," Normandeau told reporters in response to a question.
"There's a signed agreement, and it was negotiated beforehand. Voila."
Those remarks appear to pour cold water on the suggestion, coming out of New Brunswick, that the deal is somehow still in flux.
The New Brunswick government has come under intense political fire over its plan to sell the assets of NB Power for almost $4.8 billion.
That government has defended the sale by saying the money will help the province make investments - in areas like education - that will lead to a more prosperous future for New Brunswick.
But critics have called it a sellout of key assets. Neighbouring provinces and states have also expressed concern, arguing that it will create a quasi-monopoly for Hydro-Quebec in the Atlantic region.
Among the complaints from New Brunswick's Opposition Conservatives is that details are not being properly shared with the public.
The New Brunswick government has fended off its critics by arguing that details are still being worked out.
Energy Minister Jack Keir has said details are still being negotiated and will be explained before the deal is officially signed, which is expected at the end of March. Justice Minister Michael Murphy has also told protesters that the government is trying to secure a better deal.
Normandeau's response Monday suggests otherwise. She said it's obvious the issue presents a political challenge for New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham's government.
"To look at the media coverage, it's clear there's a challenge there. But that's not new. Mr. Graham was aware of that from the moment the agreement in principle was confirmed," Normandeau said.

Organizations: NB Power, Hydro-Quebec

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Quebec, Atlantic

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