Mass protest in Fredericton against NB Power sale | National Union of Public and General Employees

Mass protest in Fredericton against NB Power sale

By far the largest demonstration yet against the sale of NB Power assets to Hydro Quebec.

Fredericton (22 March 2010) - More than 2,000 people from across New Brunswick massed on the front lawn of the provincial legislature in Fredericton on Saturday in a major protest against the proposed $3.2-billion sale of NB Power (ENBP) to Hydro Quebec (HQ).

It was by far the largest demonstration yet in a series of protests against the massive power deal. The legislative grounds were packed with people, many carrying placards demanding that the sale be cancelled and that the publicly-owned utility retain all of its assets.

Opposition political leaders attended the rally but did not address the crowd, opting instead to let government hear the voices of protesters directly.

Tom Mann of the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees (NBUPPE/NUPGE) told the crowd that the province's Liberal government does not have the mandate from voters to go ahead with the controversial deal, which would see all of the province's major power generating assets sold to Hydro Quebec.

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch said voters should ask Premier Shawn Graham and his caucus if they're going to benefit personally from the power deal. He challenged the government to say in advance that no one in the government would cash in after their time in public office ends.

The government announced in late February it was delaying finalization of the deal for nearly two months to allow a full debate and public hearings. However, it angered critics by declaring in advance that nothing would change as a result of the exercise.

The full text of the agreement, along with legislation to enact it, will be introduced in the legislature by the end of March. The deadline to sign the deal has been pushed back from the end of March to May 21.

If it goes ahead, Hydro Quebec will acquire most of the province's power generation assets while NB Power will retain control of transmission and distribution. Residential ratepayers would get a five-year rate freeze as a result of the deal while medium-sized industries would see a roughly 15% cut in power rates and large industrial customers (i.e. the Irving family) would see their power prices fall by roughly 23%.

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