FREDERICTON – New Brunswick Energy Minister Jack Keir is refusing to discuss any severance package that might have been offered to the outgoing president of NB Power.
David Hay suddenly announced Tuesday that he would resign at the end of the month – just 10 months into a new three-year contract.
The timing comes just as the province’s Liberal government is trying to finalize a controversial sale of major assets of the utility to Hydro-Quebec.
Keir faced questions in the legislature Wednesday, and later from reporters on any compensation package that Hay would be paid.
But the minister would only say it will be released in the annual publication of the salaries and benefits paid to government employees. The latest figures indicate Hay was paid a salary of about $375,000 a year.
It will be sometime in 2011 before the so-called blue book is released that would reflect any severance package.
Paul Robichaud, the Opposition’s energy critic, said the public needs to hear from Hay on the controversial deal with Hydro-Quebec.
But Robichaud said he’s concerned Hay may be bound by a confidentiality agreement.
“I believe Mr. Hay has a lot to say about this transaction,” the Conservative member of the house said outside the legislature. “I hope that Mr. Hay will be free to speak to tell us exactly what he thinks about this new agreement between Hydro-Quebec and NB Power.”
Keir refused to tell reporters if Hay was under any directive not to speak to the media.
“I’m not going there,” Keir said repeatedly.
Hay has not publicly expressed his views on the government’s plan to sell hydro, diesel and nuclear generating stations to Hydro-Quebec for $3.2 billion and so far has declined requests for interviews.
The deal was recently watered-down from the original $4.75 billion plan announced last fall that included transmission lines and distribution. The government reworked the deal after facing a growing public outcry and dissent from within the Liberal caucus.
In the legislature on Wednesday, the Opposition also questioned the government about an analysis of the power deal that was prepared for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, a non-profit research group.
The document prepared by Gordon Weil, president of Standard Energy Co. of Maine, raises questions about what will happen to power rates in New Brunswick following a five-year rate freeze for homeowners.
He says costs will have to be deferred and then recovered in the sixth year, resulting in significant rate increases.
Robichaud said he agrees with the report.
But Keir said that won’t be the case.
“Quebec has absolutely, positively, no control over electricity increases in the province of New Brunswick in year six – none, zero,” he said. “It’s going to be based on inflation, and it’s going to be based on NB Power going before the Energy and Utilities Board to justify any increases to transmission and distribution for year six.”