Thursday, March 25, 2010

NB keeps going down the tubes

The proposed deal to sell NB Power to Hydro Quebec is now dead. To the vocal people who were against the sale, I have one thing to say: It's your turn to come up with something to help us, and I hope you have a better idea.

Few people truly understood how the deal actually worked, and I'm not one of them. But the overreaction by many NBers to this sale left me with a continued feeling of being trapped in a place that denies change at any turn (ironically, since I dislike and fight change regularly). We're now left with a struggling utility that was in bad shape to start, a nuclear power plant that is currently being refitted and is so behind schedule that it is costing us $1M per day to source extra power, and other old-school power sources (such as coal) that not only use limited resources but are harmful to the environment. We're screwed. Really, really screwed.

The idea was right: we needed help. NB Power made up a huge portion of our debt. The problem was that we overvalued what we had, and the politicians didn't anticipate it being such a hot-bed topic. Even though the deal is dead, it will likely result in the current government getting the boot come September. That is unfortunate. They didn't do enough public consultation, but I truly don't think it's enough of a reason to kick them out of power. In the previous election, we kicked the Tories out of power because they pissed us off, so we're basically just a bunch of flip-flopping voters in this province. We react to whatever the latest news is, rather than examining the work done over the past term and also examining what the other major political party has to offer (not much, and we already have enough Tories and Tory policy in Ottawa). I've had performance evaluations done the same way: well, last month you screwed this one item up, so we're docking you on this evaluation. We'll neglect to mention all of the good jobs you've done, because the screw-up was the most recent.

Overall I wasn't comfortable with the idea of our power system or assets being sold to Quebec. As an English Canadian, I am born with a skepticism about Quebec and their separatist tendencies every few decades. It is also my belief that the buyer of something like this would be getting the better deal: Jean Charest is a smart guy. I wasn't totally ok with it, but I didn't have a better idea. NB needed something to help eliminate our crushing debt. The idea was a step in the right direction, at least.

Power rates will go up: that is a given now. Someone has to pay for maintenance to our system, and service NB Power's debt. SJ itself is already in a lot of trouble. We're already paying the highest property taxes in the province, and yet our municipality is still considering cutting services and making us pay user fees for garbage pickup. SJ's roads are crumbling because we never take a preventative maintenance stance on infrastructure. Our water pipes are, in some cases, 100 year old wooden pipes. The water coming out of it is so green that it is akin to a swimming pool. Our dreams of being an "energy hub" are pretty much down the toilet, with the cancellation of the 2nd oil refinery, Irving Oil world headquarters' new building, and (IMO) an announcement soon on the cancellation of plans for a 2nd nuclear reactor. All I am left with are higher taxes, crappy services, and over-inflated property values from all of the "great things" that were happening. I am rapidly running out of reasons why this is a good place to live. If it weren't for my family and friends, I would probably be living in SoCal... enduring brown-outs and getting an IOU on my tax refund from the state.

Hope to hear from the naysayers soon on their better idea for eliminating debt. These are the same people who will complain the loudest when our power rates increase, mark my words.

1 comment:

John said...

I still think, as a primarily outside observer still, that the Atlantic Provinces need to form a coalition or combine into one province with separate regions or counties (we would be in the NB region/county of the Atlantic Province, for example).

In this way, the people here would have a stronger voting block in the federal areas and you could integrate all your power, water, etc. into one Atlantic Province utility system that has more tax payers supporting it. The more taxpayers paying into a system, the less burden on any one region within that system, typically.

According to 2005 statistics, if NF/L, PEI, NB, and NS joined into one voting block, you'd have approximately 2.28 million voters. That puts you above Sask, Man, and in the vicinity of Alberta (3.2 m) in terms of voting power/size/people. You'd have a much more powerful say in things.