Premier-designate Stephen McNeil has lost no time reaffirming several of his intentions.
One that stands out is the declaration his Liberal government will not support Nova Scotia’s end of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador without changes. McNeil said before while in opposition that it fell short in regard to the interests of Nova Scotian power consumers.
While it’s clear he’s drawn a line in the sand as to where his government stands, the position raises all sorts of mystery about what it means to the project.
He repeated on Wednesday, a day after the election win, that without assurances that this province will have access to power at the best possible rates – beyond the time frame agreed to by the former NDP government – then it’s back on the drawing board. His insistence that this has to benefit Nova Scotians echoes a finding of the Nova Utility and Review Board.
The project, as earlier agreed upon, would see Nova Scotia utility company Emera contributing $1.5 billion to the overall $7.7 billion cost for an undersea cable link to this province.
While pulling the plug, McNeil said Emera as a private company would still be free to go ahead with it. But at the same time Nova Scotia would be free to buy energy at a reasonable price elsewhere.
Puzzlingly enough, that suggests the Liberals’ position on the deal is a red herring.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Nova Scotia’s non-commitment would not stop the project. Another puzzle – not long ago she said this impasse on future price had been resolved, although her province’s utility, Nalcor Energy, has not acknowledged that.
We’re left to assume McNeil’s distancing from the deal somehow ties in with his vow to break Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly – which would be great, but also assumes access to alternative, competitive sources.
That means a few pieces need to be put in place if places, such as Trenton, are ever to get out of the shadow of coal-burning generation plants.