Premier Shawn Graham insisted during question period Friday that New Brunswick will maintain regulatory control of the province’s electricity market even if NB Power is sold to Hydro-Quebec.
But the Opposition used a newly released study to bolster its warnings that Quebec will be in charge of power here if the utility sale goes through.
“My question is for the premier,” said official Opposition Leader David Alward. “Why does he believe that it is OK to give this important government authority away to another legislative assembly?”
Graham said it was clear that Alward hasn’t read the memorandum of understanding about the sale of NB Power.
“We will maintain our sovereignty under this MOU,” said the premier.
“The Energy and Utilities Board, when an all-party committee is struck, will define the rules around the regulations pertaining to this MOU.
“I can very clearly state today that the EUB will be there to protect the people of New Brunswick and it will be done in New Brunswick,” he said.
But Alward said a new study commissioned by the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies states that the memorandum of understanding requires that New Brunswick’s utility regulation must conform to the framework in Quebec.
“It is fine to say that we are still going to have control, but how can the premier tell us that Quebec’s energy policy changing in the future will not have an impact in New Brunswick?” Alward said.
“How can he ensure that changes that Quebec brings forward in two, five, or 20 years will benefit the people of New Brunswick? He cannot.”
Graham said Alward was fearmongering.
After question period, Energy Minister Jack Keir told reporters he disagreed with some of the findings of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies report.
“I’ve had a chance to take a look at that report,” he said.
“I think that some of the assumptions are flawed. I think with respect to regulation that he is wrong.”
Keir said the utilities board will have the same mandate and responsibility that it has now.
But Opposition energy critic Paul Robichaud said the report was done by an independent expert.
He also said it’s consistent with the warnings the Opposition has been sending.
“It was clear from day one to us and now we have an expert who said that we were right,” said Robichaud.